When stemless wineglasses first hit the market, wine enthusiasts weren't sure what to make of them. The design defied centuries of wine drinking tradition, a notion of extreme importance in oenological culture. The sheer unconventionality of the glasses, however, matched many of the exciting New World attitudes of winemaking, such as synthetic corks or screw caps and bold, lucious, fruity New World wines from non-traditional varietals and blends. As winemaking entered a new age, so did the range of vessels from which wine lovers could drink it.
Same Shape, No Stem
Traditional stemware for wine is built on many conventions thought to enhance the experience of wine drinking.
- Bowl shape varies for different types of wines in order to place the wines in the mouth along the taste buds most likely to perceive the wine's unique flavors.
- The size and shape of the rims direct aromas in the way most pleasing for the type of wine you are drinking.
- The material with which the glasses are made reflects the clarity and color of the wine.
- The stem allows you to hold the glass without projecting the warmth from your hand through the bowl of the glass and warming the wine beyond ideal temperature.
Stemless wineglasses do all of these things as well, except for the final item. They look like the bowl of traditional wine glasses, but lack the stem. Instead, stemless wine glasses have a flat spot along the bottom of the bowl so you can set them carefully on a surface. Many varieties of stemless wine glasses exist for different types of wine, both reds and whites.
The Good and the Bad
Of most concern to oenophiles was that lack of a stem. They could recognize the glasses' uniquely shaped bowls, but many found the lack of a stem confounding. Without a stem to hold, how was one to keep from warming the wine? Likewise, how could one effectively swirl the wine in order to observe its legs and release its aromas without a stem by which to hold the glass?
Stemless wine glasses actually make sense in many ways, and offer distinct advantes over their stemmed cousins.
- The lack of stems makes them fit better just about anywhere you'd like to place them. Cupboards hold them more effectively, and it's easy to wash them on the top rack of the dishwasher.
- Stems can be fragile and easy to break. Removing the stems makes the glasses sturdier. Without stems, they are easier to pack along (carefully cushioned, of course) for picnics or to take to a friend's house.
- The glasses reflect a style more in line with today's casual entertaining. By removing the stems from the glasses, they appear much less formal and more approachable, inviting every day and causal use.
- Even without stems, the glasses remain recognizable as wine glasses.
While many of the drawbacks have to do with the traditional ideas of how wine should be presented, a few also represent practical matters.
- Many wines are served at slightly less than room temperature, and some wines are served chilled. If you hold a wine glass by the bowl, your hand warms the wine, taking out of its ideal drinking temperature, which detracts from the wine. Without a stem, there is no other option for holding the wine glass.
- Stemless wine glasses render wine glass charms unusable, making it more difficult to identify your glass in large gatherings.
- Most wine drinkers hold the glass by the stem as they swirl the wine to aerate it during a traditional wine tasting ritual, or even when they are drinking the wine. Swirling by holding the bowl is both less elegant and less practical.
The good news is there are ways to minimize many of the drawbacks of these glasses.
- Set the wine down when you are not drinking it, minimizing the contact with your warm hand.
- Use for red wines, and not whites requiring more chilling.
- Swirl carefully to aerate the wine, and add additional aeration as you sip by drawing air through your teeth while the wine is still in your mouth.
Buying Stemless Wine Glasses
If you like the more casual feel of the stemless glasses, or if you just like the idea of easier storage and washing, then many manufacturers now make the glasses.
- Riedel, manufacturer of fine, quality stemware makes "O" stemless crystal glasses in shapes designed to enhance your favorite wines.
- Giovino stemless glasses offer a unique solution to the warming issue. The glasses are notched so you can hold them just above the level of the wine.
- Spiegelau, maker of fine crystal stemware, offers the Authentis casual stemless glasses at an affordable price
Many depatrment stores now sell their own brands of stemless wine glasses. Other places to find a good variety of the glasses include:
If you've never tried using stemless wine glasses before, you may be surprised at the versatility and durability of many of the glasses. Many manufacturers now make stemless wine glasses at a variety of price points, so you're sure to find glasses that will suit both your taste and your budget.