We all have that one friend who has a wine glass for every occasion. Toasting to the new couple? She has a set of crystal champagne flutes at the ready. Uncorking a big, muscular Cab Sauv on a Friday night? She’s got beautiful hand-blown Bordeaux glasses expressly for the purpose.
Sure it’s impressive, but you don’t need to have inherited your grandma’s Waterford stemware collection to entertain with ease and style. In fact, if you’re new to drinking wine, have limited space in your apartment, or don’t have the budget to splurge on 10 different types of wine glasses, you can get by with one—yes one!—universal, all-purpose glass.
Says VIVANT Wine Advisor Nicole Muscari: “When in doubt I always reach for a universal wine glass. These glasses tend to have a wider bowl at the bottom to let the wine open up, and then they go slightly narrower towards the top to allow the aromas to express themselves.” Her top recommendations include the budget-friendly Schott Zwiesel Pure Cabernet Glasses and the more splurge-worthy Zalto Denk’Art Universal Glass.
On the hunt for the perfect universal glass for your collection? Read on for our tips and suggestions.
The Features to Look For
When shopping for the perfect set, let the following three criteria be your guide: size, color, and shape.
Unless you’re sipping port or other fortified wines, you can forgo smaller glasses and upgrade to tall glasses with ample space in the bowl so that you can swirl and sniff without spilling. Smaller glasses are also impractical when it comes to appreciating the aromas of a wine, especially if you want to be able to fit the tip of your nose into the mouth of the glass.
We love colorful stemware as much as the next person, but if you’re serious about your wine education, it’s best to pass on the vintage-era colored wine glasses. Anything that obscures the color of a wine may alter your perception of its taste and aromas.
A wine glass’s shape is one of the most important things to consider because it can have a significant influence on how you taste and smell a wine. The golden ratio: a glass with a wide bowl that narrows to the mouth so that the wine can breathe and the aromas are concentrated toward the mouth of the glass.
Some folks will argue that each varietal or style of wine deserves its own glass, which is how the Burgundy, Bordeaux, Chardonnay, and Riesling glasses came to be. While it is true that the glass you drink out of does in fact influence your perception of a wine, you can’t go wrong with a universal glass—even for Champagne.
What About Bubbly?
While we love the svelte silhouette of a champagne flute, their narrow base and wide mouth are not ideal if you want to maximize your favorite sparkling wine’s aromas. If you don’t want to sacrifice the elegance of a flute or the aromas of the bubbly, we highly recommend swapping the flute for a tulip-shaped glass. Tall, elongated and narrower at the mouth than in the middle of the bowl, this shape holds the bubbles in the wine instead of letting them escape the way a flute’s wide mouth does.
If you are simply tasting a sparkling wine or plan to drink it rather quickly (no judgement) you can also opt for the Universal glass. According to Nicole, “Many people don’t realize they’re also great for sparkling wine. Although the bubbles don’t have the longevity as they would in a flute, you’re able to really get your nose in there and decipher all of the complex aromas.”
So there you have it: Less can actually be more when it comes to glassware. However, if you find that you have the time, the means, and curiosity, it can be worthwhile to try tasting the same wine from different glassware, just to see how it changes your perceptions of its notes and aromas.