The world of wine can be a confusing one at times. Despite the fact that wine really does have humble origins (indeed, there was a time not so long ago when it was pretty much all that people drank in certain parts of the world), the last two centuries saw it become elevated to something sophisticated, often slightly elitist, and in some regards, almost impenetrable to those who are trying to understand and enjoy it.
Take wine glasses, for example. Head to any quality homeware shop, and you’ll be faced with a massive array of wine glasses in all shapes and sizes. You’ll find tall thin flutes with delicate stems, shorter, squatter glasses with wide bowls, stemless glasses and tumblers, coloured ones, plain ones… and most confusingly of all, glasses supposedly designed to enhance your enjoyment of specific wine styles. That’s right: there are glasses for Chardonnay, glasses for Riesling, ones for Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rioja, Port… the list goes on and on and on. To say that this can be bewildering for newcomers would be a massive understatement, but the truth of the matter is that most of these ‘specific’ wine glass styles were actually invented in the mid 20th century (and are not, as they might claim, in any way ‘traditional’) by glassware companies seeking to make more money from gullible, upwardly-mobile members of the wine drinking community.
In this article, we’re going to be taking a look at the differences between stemmed vs stemless glasses, and considering whether or not there’s any significant difference between the two. Do the stems really play a role in how your wine tastes, smells, or feels? Can a stemless, modern, sleek glass really do the job of the classic wine glass shape? Read on to find out more!
What is a Stemless Wine Glass?
This question is essentially answered by the name of the glass style in itself. A stemless wine glass is a glass which features just the bowl, and not the stem which typically can be found underneath. Sleek, smart, modern, and sophisticated, stemless wine glasses have become a symbol and a favourite of wine lovers who like to think outside the box, and who value the flavours, aromas, and characters of different wines over tradition and formality.
In the 21st century, much of the stuffy formality and many of the ‘rules’ of wine have finally been eroded away, thanks to a rejuvenated market made up of younger, savvier, and more confident drinkers. This can only be a good thing - the elitism of the wine world was becoming tiresome and overbearing, and often interrupted the enjoyment of this millennia-old drink, and put people off from getting involved. Stemless wine glasses are an impressive symptom of this sea change, and suggest that people really are putting flavour first, and are no longer worrying about getting wine drinking ‘right’.
With a stemless wine glass, you have a stylish, tactile type of drinking vessel which is made primarily and solely for the enjoyment of the wine within. Don’t worry - they still allow you to comfortably swirl your wine in order to allow it to ‘open up’ (it always amazes us that people claim the stem makes swirling easier. If anything, we think it causes even more spillages!), and they’re ideal for casual drinking, formal dinners, and tastings alike.
Do Wine Glasses Need Stems?
If you read some of the older wine drinking guides out there, you’ll come across plenty of supposed reasons why stemmed wine glasses are important. These tend to follow a similar pattern, and involves the following claims. Let’s take a look at each one in turn, and think about how true or relevant they are today.
- Stemmed wine glasses are cleaner
We almost understand the reasoning behind this. After all, if you have dirty or greasy fingers, it’s better to have a stem to hold onto, rather than making fingerprints all over the bowl of the glass. But really… is that enough of a reason to only opt for stemmed glasses? Is it so hard to wash your hands and keep them clean? Does it really matter if your wine glass has a thumb print on it? We think probably not… and besides, there are loads of stemless glasses out there made of other attractive materials beside from crystal glass - such as the Brumate range - which makes this point irrelevant.
- Stemmed wine glasses are easier to swirl
Not true. Swirling your wine glass isn’t a massive challenge - if ten year olds were allowed to drink wine, we reckon they’d be able to manage it without a hitch. The swirling involves the movement of the bowl, not the stem, so it’s hard to justify this claim in any sense.
- Stemmed wine glasses keep your wine at the right temperature
The reasoning behind this one does make some sense. Serving temperatures of wine are important, and getting the temperature wrong can negatively affect the way the drinker experiences their wine. Stems keep warm hands away from the bowl of the glass, which can lead to the temperature being altered. However, if you’re using a stemless glass, this doesn’t mean your wine is going to end up being ruined… any temperature change is going to be really rather minimal, and for the vast majority of wines, the difference created isn’t going to be particularly significant. What’s more, with the Brumate winesulator range of items, you don’t even have to give a second thought to your wine temperature being altered at all!
After looking at these points and considering why wine glasses have been stemmed for the past couple of centuries, it becomes pretty clear that actually, stemmed wine glasses aren’t particularly necessary at all. If you prefer to stick with tradition (and tradition really is the only reason most of us still drink from stemmed glasses), that’s fine… but know that there are other, possibly better, and a great deal cooler options out there to choose from.
Can You Use Stemless Glasses for White Wine?
This question really comes back to the previous point about wine temperature. Red wines aren’t as sensitive to temperature as their white counterparts are. In fact, it’s more common for red wines to be served slightly below their ideal serving temperature (especially if the wine bottle has been stored in a cold cellar, or even a fridge), which makes stemless wine glasses even more suitable for their enjoyment than stemmed ones are.
White wines, on the other hand, are temperature-sensitive, and the warmth of your hands can slightly affect the structure and character of the wine when it hits your palate (again, not by a massive amount, but if you’re a real wine buff you might notice the difference). If you’re worried about stemless glasses having an impact on your enjoyment of a chilled glass of Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, or whatever your favourite varietal of white wine may be, you’d be better off going for a stylish, sleek, and beautiful stemless wine glass which also has temperature insulating properties. Brumate’s great range of innovative stemless glasses will ensure that your wine stays exactly at the temperature you want it, meaning you can enjoy even the most delicate and sensitive white wines in a stemless glass. Perfection!
Stemmed vs Stemless Wine Glasses: The Wine World Keeps Turning
As we’ve seen, in today’s modern and dynamic wine world, the dominance of the traditional, old-fashioned, and somewhat fusty stemmed wine glass seems to be fading quickly. As stemless glasses continue to become more and more popular, thanks to their sleek design and the added option of buying stemless glasses with triple insulating properties, more and more people are doing away with the old and embracing the new.
We believe that wine is something that everybody should enjoy, and it shouldn’t be wrapped up in formalities and traditions which few can see the point of any longer. Wine in the 21st century is possibly more dynamic and exciting than it has ever been before… and stemless glasses and new ideas on what wine drinking can and should be are blazing new trails for others to follow. We’ll raise a (stemless) glass to that!