I’ve been hunting for the Perfect Universal Red Wine Glass for years. And finally I decided it was time to get serious and come up with an organized plan for my search.
We all understand how important it is to match the glass to the wine. But who has enough extra real estate to house 17 different sets of wine glasses? And yet, is there really any such thing as a truly Universal Red Wine Glass?
It turns out the answer is yes. There actually is.
You just have to be highly discerning in what you pick.
I had seven criteria. I wanted the Perfect Universal Red Wine Glass to: (1) showcase as many different red wine varieties as possible to their individual maximums both in nez and in bouche, (2) not be likely to break either at the dinner table or when I’m drying the glass with a dish towel, (3) be light weigh and easy to swirl, (4) be smooth and delicate to the hand, (5) be beautiful, (6) have no toxic lead in the crystal, and, if the crystal gods might possibly allow, (7) be dishwasher safe.
A girl can dream, right?
Well, it turns out not only can a girl dream, but dreams can come true.
So here’s what I did. I scoured through several dozen published interviews with top sommeliers, exclusive restaurateurs, prominent wine professionals, and noted oenophiles to see what they said about an all-around red wine glass. I made notes of the glasses they personally use in their homes and businesses. And then I researched those same glasses (as well as a host of others the professionals did not recommend) by reading literally hundreds of consumer comments on wine glasses currently on the American market.
The 14 wine glass manufacturers that seem to come up the most with the average wine consumer are Bormioloi, Godinger, JBHO, Joy Jolt, Lennox, Lilly, Riedel, Rosenthal, Schott Zwiesel, Spiegelau, Waterford, Wine Enthusiast, Zalto, and Zenology.
But that is not the case with the majority of wine professionals. Their choices were far more narrow.
And the differences I found between what the wine professional were saying and what consumers were buying were not only shocking but very illuminating.
Apparently advertising budgets work really well with most of us. Our perceptions are skewed by slick. And our lay perceptions are not always even a remotely good indicator of quality.
At all. Except if you take the time to read customer dissatisfaction comments. They tell you a whole lot.
The biggest shock I found was that the most widely marketed “top of the line” wine glass in the U.S. — at least what you see displayed in most high end wine shops — is the Riedel. But Riedel was the least likely of the top tier glasses to be recommended by wine professionals. And Riedel was also the manufacturer that rank-and-file customers were the most likely to voice displeasure about in terms of fragility of the glass and glasses breaking. That is true even at the same time that Riedel is the most widely purchased premium wine glass on the American market.
No, this is definitely not simply a case that the best glass is the glass that is most likely to break. Because it’s not. And wine professionals certainly aren’t interested in wine glasses that might break in someone’s hand and injure them. And trust me, I’m not either. Are you? Who really wants a bleeding husband or a dinner guest you have to rush to the hospital for stitches just before dessert?
So in my search for the Perfect Universal Red Wine Glass, I aggregated the glasses the top wine experts around the world say they favor and the information I gleaned from painstakingly reading several hundred customer reviews. And here, my friends, are the five glasses that rise to the top of the crystal mountain.
Here are the Four Most Perfect Universal Red Wine Glasses.
I want to make sure I am up front here. We are an Amazon Affiliate and we may make a (very) small fee on any sales linked from our page. But it does not cost you a penny extra. And the slight affiliation profit goes a long way to keeping this kind of independent review coming on our website. A note here though, prices continually change, especially on Amazon. So don’t be certain the price will be exactly what this article says the price was at the time of posting.
Zalto Denk’Art Bordeaux Wine Glass
The Zalto Denk’Art Bordeaux Wine Glass is one of the few on this list that is not machine-made but is the more desirable (and more expensive) mouth-blown crystal. And yet, even though it is mouth-blown crystal, Zalto says it is still both lead-free and dishwasher safe.
Zalto says it is specifically made for Bordeaux and Cabernet, but works as all-around “red” glass — for any wine full of flavor and high in tannins.
The shape is enticely beautiful to the eye. And although it hold the moniker of a Bordeaux glass, Zalto advertising that this glass is well suited to display Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, and Barbera. That, of course, pretty much covers the waterworks for the big reds. And as most of us know, since Bordeaux wines are primarily comprised of the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Merlot grapes, any glass fitting for Bordeaux is going to highlight no only Bordeaux and the Cabernet varietal, but Merlot and most Syrah wines quite well. And usually, even though this glass is a little too large to be optimal for them, in a pinch it can even cross over to highlight Bordeaux Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc wines.
This glass is 9.4 inches tall and accommodates 23 to 25.9 ounces of wine if you were to pour the glass totally full. Of course, only a wine boor would do that. The optimal pour is 3 to 4 ounces.
With a 3 to 4-ounce pour in this glass, you end up with the wine at exactly the right height (as you see in the illustration here) to contact the maximum surface of air for breathing.
Zalto is an Austrian glass maker that has been in Austria since the early 14th Century. It is a family-owned company that traces its roots back to glass blowers in Venice even before they relocated to Austria. So it’s certainly not a newcomer to fine crystal.
A number of connoisseurs use this glass in their homes. But it is far from the least expensive of my top five picks. This glass usually runs about $60 a stem if you buy a single glass. The price goes down only slightly if you buy a set. I was able to find a set of six these Zalto Denk’Art Bordeaux Wine glasses recently on Amazon for around $350. That takes the price per steam down to around $58, which doesn’t seem like it is saving a lot when you are shelling out that big a sum.
Zalto Denk’Art Burgundy Wine Glass
This Zalto Denk’Art Burgundy Wine Glass is just a stunner. You can’t get around the shape. But a goodly number of wine professionals say this is their glass of choice for an all-around red wine glass either in their homes or their places of business.
I cannot help remark here that Zalto makes a glass in this line that they call a “Universal” wine glass. But I have not run across one wine professional that says that is their glass of choice. Although Zalto is the main choice of goodly number of them, they appear to be almost equally divided between the Bordeaux/Cabernet glass and this Burgundy glass.
Perhaps in the end it largely comes down to the aesthetics. Of that I cannot be certain.
Zalto specifically says this glass is suited primarily to red wines — but that it particularly highlights Bordeaux, Rioja, Brunello, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Blaufränkisch, and Zweigelt as well as Burgundy. Seems like slightly odd verbiage since they have a glass they call a Bordeaux glass. But I think it underscores how both of these glasses are accommodating of numerous taste profiles. In fact, in some of their literature, Zalto even says this is a great Chardonnay glass. And from the shape and size of it, I am thinking it probably is extremely well-suited to Chardonnay (which is, of course, native to Burgundy and actually made from exactly the same grapes as White Burgundy.)
Like the Zalto Bordeaux glass, this glass is mouth-blown. But it is also is lead free, ultra light, smooth to the touch, and dishwasher safe. And to my eye, it is just stunningly beautiful.
I want to note that consumer reviews do not mention a problem with the Zalto glasses breaking in nearly the same numbers as the Riedel consumer reviews do. And it is important to point out here that the Riedel glasses in those reviews are machine-made glasses, not mouth-blown crystal like this Zalto line. So the actual quality of the Zalto is much higher. Yet not so prone to breakage as the Riedel is.
This is not the only reason, but it is the main reason no Riedel glass is on my top four list.
Schott Zwiesel Tritan Concerto Bordeaux Glass
This Schott Zwiesel Tritan Concerto Bordeaux Glass is German-made crystal. Schott Zwiesel is a century old history company with an impressive list of “firsts.” It was the first glass manufacturer in the world to produce fine quality lead-free crystal. It created the first fully automated blown crystal stemware. And then about two decades ago it was the first to introduce titanium oxide and zirconium oxide into their crystal to maximize the strength and minimize breakage.
Any of their lines that are called “Tritan” are made of this titanium melded crystal. It can break, but it qualifies to be what is termed “break-resistant.”
Whether this added strength is the driver or not, Schott Zwiesel has consistent over-the-top customer reviews. Breakage of these glasses is simply not a major problem according to consumers. Some even report glasses being dropped on the floor and not breaking. And, of course, like most of the competitors today, this whole line is both lead-free and dishwasher safe.
The Concerto styling is not the most expensive glass in Schott Zweisel’s stable of crystalware, but it is one of the glasses that a significant number of sommeliers chose for use in their own homes and in their wine schools. And it is a glass widely used in upscale European restaurants as “the” red wine glass.
It is not mouth-blown. This is a machine-produced crystal. But consumers report you cannot find a seam anywhere on the glass. It is that finely made.
This glass stand 9.8 inches tall and fill capactiy is 24.7 ounces. So even though the configuration is different than the Zalto Bordeaux glass, the size of the glass is very similar. Both glasses are large. They are designed to be large enough to allow maximum aeration while the wine is in the glass. And the advantage of the Schott Zweisel’s elongated tulip shape is that even fairly vigorous swirling stays well within the bounds of the glass.
You can usually find the Schott Zweisel Tritan Concerto Bordeaux glass sold in a set of six for around $85, which puts the cost per stem about $14. Prices vary a lot depending on when you shop these. But in comparison with the $60 a stem range of the Zalto, these are a great deal more cost effective.
Gabriel-Glas “Stand Art” Edition Crystal Wine Glass
This Gabriel-Glas “Stand Art” Edition Crystal Wine Glass is the machine-made version of wine glass by this premier Austrian crystal maker. Gabriel-Glas likes to refer to is a “molded.” But read that as machine-made.
Quite a few outstanding sommeliers swear by this glass. And it definitely has a worldwide following.
You will find this Gabriel-Glas “Stand Art” Edition Crystal Wine Glass is on the pricey side, no matter which version of the glass you purchase. This machine-made version typically runs about $31 to $32 a stem, depending on when and where you buy it. And this price tends to be pretty stable whether you buy it in a set of two or six. The price drop appears to only occur when you purchase a box of 24 glasses, which takes the price down to about $26 a stem. But, you are shelling out more than $600 to get that price. So unless you are really rolling in dough or going in with several friends, you might just pass on the price break.
This is the reason I think many sommeliers love this glass so much — this Stand Art glass from Gabriel-Glas is designed not just to be an all-around red wine glass, but an all-around WINE glass.
Its advocates say this particular design presents red wine, white wine, sparkling wine, and dessert wine equally beautifully. Now that’s quite a boast!
But some of the most accomplished wine professionals in the world hold this opinion. So I would say, if you have room for only one set of wine glasses, this is the wine glass it should be.
The “upper” line from Gabriel-Glas is called its “Gold Edition.” This is their mouth-blown glass line. It is, as usually is the case with mouth-blown crystal, about half the weight of the machine-made glasses. It runs around $70 a stem if you purchase them in sets of two or six. At the two dozen price break, the price drops to around $65 a stem. But remember, to get that stem price, you have a purchase of more than $1,500. But having said that, consumers report they adore this glass and marvel at its durability.
The Gabriel-Glas products are, by the way, advertised by the company to be dishwasher safe.
So what’s the best all-around glass?
I hate to sound like a lawyer here. But it does depend.
It depends on your pocketbook.
Best of the Best
If you are set on having one set of glasses and one set of glasses only and you can afford the $32 dollar a stem, buy the machine-made Stand Art Edition from Gabriel-Glas.
If I were starting over, that is exactly what I would do.
This glass is not a seasonal or ever-changing “style” like many glass makers have. This is pretty much a perma-line from what I can tell. So to keep your initial cost down, you easily can add to your collection by twos over time and feel relatively safe it will still be in production.
The fact that connoisseurs uniformly say this particular design works for all types of wine takes it over the top in my personal thinking.
Best for the Dollar
It is difficult to ignore how many wine professionals choose this Schott Zweisel Tritan Concerto Bordeaux Wine Glass as their favorite all-around red wine glass given the price point. This is especially true when the stem price is a quarter of the price of most of the competitors and less than half of the next closest price. At around $14 a stem, this glass is a wonderful bargain. And the titanium-infusion makes this a really easy glass to live with over time.
If you have been a wine consumer for a number of years, like we are in my home, and you already have a beloved set or two of specialty Rosé glasses or champagne flutes, this may be a perfect solution for your other wines.
Full naked truth here, our favorite wine is a good Bordeaux. And we love both the reds and the whites. We have this glass in our personal collection and we love it. It works beautifully for almost every red varietal. And we find the shape is even good for White Bordeaux and Sauvignon Blanc, which are our favorite whites anyway.
We don’t recommend this glass for Rosé or Vinho Verde wines. But for pretty much anything else, by simply varying the size of the pour, this glass works beautifully.
And nothing matches the durability of the Schott Zweisel Tritan glasses. Of that we are absolutely convinced.
We encourage you to read our review of the best specialty wine glasses for Rosé & Vinho Verde wines.