Do You Use Fancy Wine Glasses?


Forte glass on the left, Vitis on the right. [Photo: Maggie Hoffman]

For the casual wine drinker, glassware doesn't make a huge difference. You want something that allows you to smell and taste the wine, that feels nice in your hand and at your lips, and that isn't too much of a pain to store or to wash. You want something that won't make you nervous when you have guests over, and won't cost an arm and a leg to replace when it inevitably breaks.

After upgrading from hefty post-college balloon glasses, I've been happy for a few years with a sort of middle-ground glass. The Schott Zwiesel Tritan Crystal Forte Collection has a lot going for it. The rim is delicate (though not superfine) and the glasses come in a number of shapes. Most importantly, because they're made with titanium-enhanced non-lead crystal, these babies can be washed in the dishwasher, which makes them perfect and easy for everyday use. We've had ours for two years and they're going strong, which means the cost (about $10 per glass) has made sense for us.

But I put my standard glassware to the test this week on a few bottles of riesling for my review series. I wanted to see how they fared in comparison with fancier glasses, particularly those designed with riesling in mind. Could the fancy stuff really be worth more 3 or 4 times as much as my standby stemware?

Riedel sent me a pair of Vitis Riesling glasses to try against my standard glassware. After a week of sniffing, swirling, tasting, washing, and storing, here are my conclusions:

PRO: Appearance.The Vitis glasses are striking-looking, tall and statuesque, and watching wine swirl in them is mesmerizing.
CON: Storage.They're too tall for all but one of my cabinets.

PRO: Delicacy. Drinking from a glass with this thin a rim feels nice; the wine seems to tumble smoothly into your mouth.
CON: Convenience. These delicate glasses can't be treated roughly, and they can't be washed in a dishwasher. The rate of breakage will be much higher unless you treat them truly gingerly, which means these pricey glasses are actually even pricier to keep around.

PRO: Aroma. The difference in scent between the same wine poured into the two different glasses was marked. The Vitis glasses seemed to concentrate and bring out the scent of every riesling we tried—accentuating intense fruit aromas. Scent and taste, are, of course, linked—vivid aromas help you experience the wine as vividly flavored. Does the Vitis actually make for a more delicious wine? I'll have to keep drinking to decide, and a longer blind test would be necessary to really come to any conclusions. But in real life, you're not drinking blindfolded, so thinking you're getting superior flavor might mean your experience is more pleasurable, whether that flavor can be proven or not.

Would I buy myself a huge set of these glasses for entertaining? Maybe not, at least at this stage of my life. But I'd love to collect a pair of each shape, not for dinner parties, but to have on hand for quiet evenings enjoying a bottle of wine.

Do you use fancy stemware? Do you have different glasses on hand for different occasions? Have you tried the Riedel Vitis glasses? What did you think?