When it comes to wine, the vessel matters. Consider your glassware when planning your Thanksgiving and winter holiday meals. If you have a set of Riedel stemware for each varietal—bravo. If not, stock up on a few essential glasses, focusing on red, white, bubbly, and possibly dessert wines too. These are some of the best wine glasses in each category—plus some expert advice.
The more casual oenophile can invest in some good all-purpose wine glasses, but make sure you have a dozen of them. Tell your guests to bring their favorite bottles of wine, provide a couple of your own favorites, pop that cork, pour, and salud! It’s the holidays. Let the wine and conversation flow freely.
What Should You Look For in a Wine Glass?
Blogger Julie Blanner notes that wine tastes better in glass than plastic, and it stays the proper temperature longer if held from a stem. The color of the wine can be more thoroughly enjoyed from clear crystal as opposed to colored wine glasses or cut crystal.
In general, wine experts recommend clear, crystal glasses with large bowls and thin rims. They should hold 10 to 18 ounces of wine, taper ever-so-slightly at the top, and be easy to balance when you hold them in your hand, according to Houzz, a home design, decorating, and professionals resource.
Of course, this isn’t to say that plastic wine glasses won’t do. If you’re outside on the patio, plastic is the perfect durable choice for enjoying your bubbly beverage.
TOSSWARE Recyclable 6-Ounce Stemmed Flutes, 12 for $17.99 on Amazon
These crystal-clear plastic flutes are shatterproof, BPA-free, 100 percent recyclable, and good-looking, with multiple other glass styles available.
Do You Really Need Different Wine Glasses?
If you favor wine over beer or cocktails and you tend to entertain your guests the same way, chances are you’ll need a full range of wine glasses in your cabinets, Houzz says. “While the casual wine enthusiast can get by with just a standard set of red wine glasses plus a few champagne flutes, those who are more serious about vintage, tannins, and aromas will want to invest in a more expansive set.”
But don’t despair if you can’t afford all these glasses or lack the space to store them.
“You don’t have to have everything under the sun to entertain,” says Blanner. “Who has the space?” She also has a handy tip for those without wine charms: “Use a dry erase marker on the base of wine glasses to differentiate. It stays on for the duration of the party and washes off at the end of the night.”
There are plenty of similarly keep-it-casual nuggets of wisdom, like this advice from the holiday entertaining experts from How to Decorate: “Don’t worry about not having enough matching glasses. In fact, we say serving a variety of glasses or even a mix of vintage and new glasses makes a house party feel cozy and less formal.”
Related Reading: How to Find the Vintage Glassware of Your Dreams Online
So while we call our curated picks essential, it’s all good if you can’t keep up. The shabby chic aesthetic is alive and kicking and as long as the wine is good, no one will mind what they’re drinking it out of (for the most part).
What Is the Difference Between Types of Wine Glasses?
If you do want to get into more specific glassware, let’s use Houzz’s method to categorize the four main glass types:
- Red Wine Glasses: These glasses generally have wider openings and larger bowls.
- White Wine Glasses: Slightly shorter than glasses for red wines, with a narrower opening and bowl.
- Champagne Glasses: Also called flutes and suitable for all sparkling wines, these glasses are tall with a thin opening and bowl, which is sometimes tulip-shaped. The height allows aromas and bubbles to be trapped near the rim so you can enjoy them while you sip. (The notable exception here is Champagne coupes, which are shorter, wider, and shallow; according to Glass of Bubbly, they can give a fuller taste of the sparkling wine, though the bubbles will be less intense.)
- Dessert Wine Glasses: Smaller and shorter than others because most dessert wines are typically served in small quantities. Their bowls are usually tulip-shaped with a narrow opening.
For casual entertaining, you’ll want four to six glasses for red wine, plus four to six glasses for white wine—or 8 to 12 all-purpose wineglasses. You’ll also want four to six Champagne flutes or tulips. For more formal entertaining, you’ll want more of everything, plus more specialized options.
The Best Wine Glasses for Entertaining
Look over a few of our favorite glasses and consider stocking up before you host your next gathering.
By all means, you can use these glasses for all your red wines, not just cabernets. Made in Germany from high-quality, lead-free crystal, Riedel glasses are somehow also dishwasher safe. The custom-machining process pairs the charm of a handmade glass with precision of machine-blowing.Buy Now
These glasses are so pretty, it doesn’t matter if you drink red, white, or even pink wine from them. A Parisian brand, Cristal d’Arques has devoted over 40 years to marrying technology with creativity to inspire its exquisite and contemporary collections. Made of Diamax material, the glasses offer purity, transparency, and shatter resistance with a shine that will endure daily machine washes. They’re lead-free too. The set includes six glasses.Buy Now
Enjoy pinot noir, sangiovese, Burgundy, Chianti, and other soft-bodied red wines with these elegant wine glasses. The tall, large bowl gives the wine room to breathe, while the shape of the glass channels each sip to the back of the palate for maximum flavor. Created by Swedish design duo Bernadotte & Kylberg, the light yet durable Air series is exclusively sold at Sur La Table, by the single piece or in sets of six.Buy Now
If you’re having a large dinner or party, you would do well with a few orders of this super-affordable set of six 12-ounce glasses, with a classic balloon cut.Buy Now
Considered one of Sur la Table’s finest crystal glassware lines, the Glace collection is a throwback to the classic bar culture, developed with legendary bartender Charles Schumann as a symbiosis of aesthetics and enjoyment. Each glass features fine, delicate lines and a geometric style that refracts the light of your drinks with eye-catching grandeur. By replacing the lead in traditional crystal with titanium and zirconium, Schott Zwiesel created strong, clear, brilliant glasses with clarity that resists chipping, scratching, and breakage.Buy Now
If there was ever a time to go all out, it’s when you’re entertaining for the holidays. This is the time to use the fancy china and crystal that you save for special occasions. Waterford crystal needs no introduction. Look at these beauties. Your dinner’s class level gets advanced to penthouse status when you’re drinking your wine from these gorgeous glasses.Buy Now
Perfect for sipping Champagne, prosecco, and other sparkling wines, these glasses have an angular silhouette that tightens around the globe. The design provides aeration for excellent bubble circulation and showcases Champagne’s unique aroma. The set includes four glasses.Buy Now
For your potentially more raucous holiday parties, you might face some breakage if you don’t provide something like GoVino’s flexible, shatterproof, reusable, recyclable glasses. They’ve got an ergonomic thumb notch and they feel similarly to crystal. Use the 16-ounce tumblers for white or red wines. The set includes 12 glasses.Buy Now
For your cordials, ports, and liqueurs, these affordable Dublin leaded crystal glasses are ideal. The striking starburst design all around the middle adds a perfect kiss of elegance. The elongated shape is accentuated by a finely detailed, thin stem, but the glasses feel thick and sturdy. The set includes six 4-ounce glasses.Buy Now
Like Waterford, this is also what we consider pretty high-end in the wine glassware world. In a collaboration worthy of Wallis and Edward, renowned bridal designer Vera Wang and Wedgwood have created Duchesse stemware. The line features tapering round bowls and a blazing starburst cut over a flared pedestal. Choose the goblets, wine glasses, toasting flutes, flutes, and iced beverage glasses. They’re made of crystal and are dishwasher safe.Buy Now
This self-proclaimed perfect wine glass is the result of a collaboration between renowned dinnerware designer Richard Brendon and noted wine expert Jancis Robinson and is engineered to be the ideal vessel for every vino. Made from mouth-blown crystal with thin rims and available in classic and stemless versions, these chic glasses are also dishwasher safe (on the top rack).Buy Now
Related Video: How to Open a Bottle of Champagne
Header image courtesy of Food52