Just say no to stemless wineglasses

by Terry B on August 10, 2014

An admittedly biased (and sometimes not so biased) rant on why to avoid stemless wineglasses.


In the 1970s, Shell gas stations gave out NFL goblets with fill ups. My mom’s kitchen cabinet quickly became filled with them. They were free, after all, and their smoked tint—all the rage at the time—made them a step up from the Flintstone jelly glasses they pushed aside. Today when I see stemless wineglasses, I can’t help but see the ghost of those gas station goblets.

Even the finest—and most expensive—stemless wineglasses just look stubby and squat sitting on the table. Like something that should be at the kids’ table—”these are great, the boys hardly ever spill anymore.” Or like they were chosen because they fit in the dishwasher better. Some stemless ware is further hampered by being multicolored (“Aunt Martha, you have the yellow glass tonight”) or hand painted with various designs.

Stemmed wineglasses literally elevate wine. Their height creates a more varied topography at the table, adding sparkle and visual interest.

More practically, stemmed wineglasses help wines maintain their proper temperature longer. As you hold a stemless wineglass, the temperature of your hand warms the wine; stemmed glasses allow you to hold them by the stem or base, avoiding this problem.

The stem lets you play with your wine too, swirling it to study the wine’s legs or holding the glass up to the light to admire its color. Yes, the stem can also be the glass’s weak point. I broke a glass the other night while washing dishes; the stem snapped off at the bowl. But shopping for a replacement today and seeing elegant stemmed glasses standing tall next to their stocky, stemless brethren, I thought it was a small price to pay.


{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

[email protected] Riffs August 10, 2014 at 9:49 am

I agree! Although we actually purchased some stemless wine glasses about a year ago — although we use them for desserts (chocolate mousse, pudding, etc.). We have found, though, that they also work well on those few occasions when we serve port. We’ve been buying stemmed glassware lately that has titanium in it. It’s supposed to help reduce breakage, and so far it seems to have worked (no broken glasses in over 3 years!). Good rant — thanks.

Terry B August 10, 2014 at 11:24 am

John, your uses of the stemless glasses sound perfect. And good to know about the titanium—I hadn’t heard about that.

Dani H August 10, 2014 at 11:52 pm

I’m certainly not the wine connoisseur that you are, Terry, but you make several valid points not the least of which is that stemmed glasses look more elegant.

I do like John’s use of stemless glasses for desserts ~ I have small handle-less teacups and clear glass tea light candleholders that I use for desserts like mousse, especially when we have more than one option so prefer smaller servings.

Deb Jacobs August 11, 2014 at 6:43 am

I do miss using stemmed glasses. However, I have 3 Newfoundland dogs (weight 130-150 pounds each) and just 1 swoosh of their tails wipe out any stemmed glass. They have not broken a stemless one yet.

Terry B August 11, 2014 at 10:18 am

Dani, we’re big fans of repurposing dishes and accessories for new uses. Great ideas.

Deb, your dogs are a valid reason for going stemless. Wow.

Anita August 11, 2014 at 10:46 am

On the other hand, I sometimes use stemmed wine glasses for desserts! The saucer champagne glasses my parents bought back in the 50s are marvelous vessels for puddings, mousses, snows.

I’ve been to a few restaurants that served wine in jelly-jar type glasses. Even if it is purely psychological (which I don’t think it is), my enjoyment of the meal dipped because of that.

Terry B August 11, 2014 at 10:58 am

Anita, we serve mascarpone-based desserts in some vintage champagne glasses we found at a flea market. And I totally agree about the jelly jar glasses being an annoying affectation. Also, everyone: mason jars are for canning, They are not drinking glasses. There is nothing pleasant about drinking from them.

All this said, I do enjoy the humble stemless glasses used for wine in French bistros. But they have plenty of honest tradition behind them.

randi August 11, 2014 at 12:24 pm

I’m not much of a wine drinker but you make a lot of sense.
Deb: I can completely relate. No coffee table candles at our house either.

Deb August 11, 2014 at 3:40 pm

I enjoy drinking out of stemmed wine glasses. Sometimes it makes me giggle….I think “wow, drinking like adults”.
Randi, you are so correct…no candles either on tabletops.

Jeri August 11, 2014 at 7:24 pm

I just watched Ina Garten and her friends having a whimsical picnic where they drank individual splits of champagne with bendy straws. I’d rather drink champagne from a red Solo cup. There’s always something worse, isn’t there?

Terry B August 11, 2014 at 10:50 pm

Young children have the same effect on domestic elegance, don’t they, Randi?

“Drinking like adults” nails it, Deb.

Jeri, you’re absolutely right. There is always something worse. I think this is an example of the whole dumbing things down to make them more fun, more accessible, more casual. I call bullsh!t. Learn a few manners. Respect a few traditions.

Deb August 12, 2014 at 6:58 am

I wholeheartedly agree w you….learn some manners and respect traditions. I get so sick of people doing things half-assed just because it is cool.
I am very sad this morning to hear about Robin Williams. Depression is the ugliest of diseases.

randi August 13, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Terry they sure do but my youngsters are in their early twenties. We’ve always had large dogs. I should attach a dusting cloth to their tails.

Terry B August 13, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Or lazy, Deb. People are always looking for ways to cut corners, not exert any effort.

Randi, some people we knew had a cocker spaniel with luxuriously long hair. They kept threatening to spray it with Endust and roll a tennis ball under the bed for it to chase.

Heather August 14, 2014 at 12:45 pm

I prefer stemmed wine glasses for the same reasons of keeping temperature of wines correct. Thankfully, no dogs here to worry about knocking over anything! Just five-year-old twin boys, so hold your glasses or keep them up high!

Terry B August 15, 2014 at 9:37 am

Heather, your approach to glassware and twins is perfect. Knowing that you have to keep an eye out, but not childproofing your family’s entire lives. Your boys will grow up understanding and appreciating the trappings of adult life. Nice.

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