Stemmed vs. Stemless Wine Glasses: Is There a Difference?

The stem plays way more of a role than you think.

By Rachel Baron
Jul 27, 2023
wine glasses on table
Share This

It’s hard to talk about great food—our area of expertise—without talking about how much we love wine. We love talking about all the different varieties of grape, how to drink wine properly, and, of course, the best glass to serve it in.

Of course, we’d be remiss not to mention the stemmed vs stemless debate—i.e., does the stem really make a difference? The short answer is yes, if you want to enjoy your wine as much as possible it’s worth using stemmed wine glasses. Let’s get into all the reasons why.

Stemmed Wine Glasses

The iconic silhouette of a stemmed wine glass is almost as much a part of the wine-drinking experience as the wine itself. Not only is it incredibly elegant—both to have and to hold—but it preserves the temperature and, thus, the taste and aroma of good wine, whether red or white.

Advantages of Using Stemmed Wine Glasses

1. Better Temperature Control

When you hold a glass of wine by the bowl, the heat from your hand transfers to the glass and raises the wine’s temperature. This isn’t just an issue for chilled white or rosé wines, but also for higher quality wines with more complex aromas and flavor profiles.

2. Keeps the Bowl Smudge-free

It may seem incredibly nitpicky, but a big reason to use a stemmed glass is to keep from smudging the bowl. This can make it harder to assess the color and texture of the wine, and is commonly considered a fine dining faux-pas—especially when it leaves your host with a greasy glass to clean.

3. Easier Swirling and Aeration

Most wines benefit from swirling, which helps to introduce oxygen into the glass that results in releasing more of the aromas while softening tannins. A stem can help you swirl the glass with less movement of the wrist, reducing the chance of spilling.

Considerations of Using Stemmed Wine Glasses

Fragility and Storage Concerns

Wine glasses have a reputation for being fragile, but higher-quality stemware has less tendency to break. Because our wine glasses are made from two pieces—a bowl and stem pulled from the same piece of glass, and a foot added as a counterweight—rather than the typical three, they’re stronger and more balanced.

That being said, if you live in a space with limited storage space and/or have pets or children running around, having stemmed wine glasses around might pose a bit of a risk.

Where to Use a Stemmed Wine Glasses

1. Wine Tastings

For wine tastings, where the focus is on appreciating each wine’s bouquet, body, and color as much as possible, a stemmed glass will likely be the option at hand at vineyards.

2. Elevated or Formal Dinner Parties

Stemmed glasses make every event feel a little more elegant, so they’re a no-brainer for serving wine at formal dinner parties, champagne for wedding toasts, or at other fancy occasions.

3. With Specific Wine Types

If you’re uncorking a nice bottle of Burgundy or another high-quality wine, you’ll want to keep the wine at a consistent temperature, as well as keep the bowl clean and fingerprint-free. Stemmed glasses are also preferable for prosecco, rosé, and other chilled wines.

Stemless Wine Glasses

A stemless wine glass is exactly what it sounds like: a glass that’s all bowl, no stem. Because they’re a little less formal, some wine drinkers reach for them when they’re going for a more relaxed vibe.

Advantages of Using Stemless Wine Glasses

1. Better Stability

Because stemless wine glasses typically have a rounded bowl that rests on a flat base, they’re simply less likely to tip over than a stemmed glass.

2. Versatility and Convenience

While you can serve non-wine beverages out of stemmed glasses (we love using them for cocktails, or even beer), some events call for more casual drinkware.

3. Easy Storage

If you have limited cabinet space and/or vertical storage options, a set of stemless glasses might be a better option.

Considerations of Using Stemless Wine Glasses

1. Temperature Regulation Issues

As we mentioned, one of the most important—if not the most important—function of a stem is to prevent the wine from absorbing the heat of your hand, which can dull the flavors and aromas. This is why many sommeliers and discerning wine drinkers aren’t fans of the stemless glass.

2. Limited Suitability for Certain Wines

While this totally depends on your personal preference, many wine drinkers view stemless glasses as overly informal—particularly in formal restaurants or wine bars. If you’re looking for a more upscale look, a stemmed glass might be a better pick.

Where to Use Stemless Wine Glasses

1. Casual Gatherings

Stemless glasses are a great match for informal events like barbecues, casual dinner parties, or pretty much any gathering that involves kids or pets.

2. Outdoor Events

A stemless glass can be a safer option for outdoor events, where uneven terrain, wind, or other elements can more easily lead to tipping or breaking.

3. Informal Wine Tastings

For a less buttoned-up-feeling wine tasting—like at home—a stemless glass can be an ideal serving vessel.

What’s the Difference, and Does It Matter?

white wine glasses

We think everyone should enjoy wine the way they feel most comfortable, whether that means using crystal stemware or a juice glass, trattoria-style.

That being said, a stemmed glass really can enhance the wine-drinking experience, and possibly even turn a casual wine-drinker into a serious aficionado. So if you’re going to buy a single set of glasses, we think stemmed is by far the most versatile option.

Ready to Shop?

So much of what we do revolves around making our customers’ lives easier and more enjoyable, whether that means eating off the best ceramic plateware or cooking with professional-grade pots and pans. That’s why we care so much about the type of wine glass you choose: Whether you’re hosting a formal dinner party or just enjoying a quiet night at home, sipping from a quality glass can improve your wine-drinking experience tenfold. And because our Wine Glasses are as sturdy as they are elegant, we think they’re more than up to the task.

Shop Made In