Putting stemware to the test

It’s not often I retrieve a box from UPS on the doorstep, open it, and dump the contents in the sink. But that’s what I did the other day.

Fortunately it wasn’t wine. Instead it was crystal. Eegad–had I lost all sense with too much Sancerre? No, I was actually trying out some glasses that I purchased called Tritan Forte made by Schott Zwiesel. They claim to be unbreakable, or at least “impact-resistant.”

Granted, I didn’t want to have crystal shards flying around the kitchen so I somewhat wimped out and let one glass fall two or three inches–a height that would have shattered many stems. But this Forte was indeed tres forte and it didn’t even crack thanks to a lead-free crystal that has titanium in it. The best news may have been the price–eight stems for $60 from Wine Enthusiast catalogue (via Amazon has a wider selection). A deep bowl and tapered top makes it sleek, elegant as well as functional.

We decided to put several stems to the test. Heck, now that even Target has a line of Riedel crystal stemware, high quality wine glasses appear poised to be the hot gift for the holidays this year. So we lined up some other contenders for the Forte: Riedel O, Riedel Vinum, and Bottega del Vino. Here at the Dr. Vino world headquarters, we enjoyed the excellent Chateau Cesseras, AOC Minervois La Liviniere, 2001. I’m not sure of the price since it was a gift from a friend who brought it back from the south of France but the wine has an excellent balance, with wonderful aromatics and southern French jamminess.

Starting with the biggest glass, I recently received a press sample of the Bottega del Vino Rosso Burgunder ($48 per stem). Wow. It is the Cadillac Escalade of wine glasses, sparkling and towering over the others. One friend who is 6’7″ loved it christening it “le chalice.”

While I would definitely agree that it is impressive to look at and puts whoever holds it way at the top in the game of ostentatious one-upmanship, I’m not convinced that it’s the best vessel, particularly for everyday use. I found that the aromas dissipated too easily, thanks to the flared rim on the glass. And it looks so brittle that an enthusiastic clinking of glasses during a toast might bring more than good wishes raining down on your companion.

The squat Riedel “O” glass ($19 for 2) looks like a Weeble Wobble for grown-ups. The aromas were better concentrated in this glass than in the Bottega. But without a stem, I got goobery fingerprints all over the bowl and the wine started to warm up in the glass since there was no stem to hold. This glass is not good for cocktail parties therefore–try it while seated at the table if at all to avoid warming up the wine.

The Riedel Vinum Zin/Riesling glass that I use as a frequent red-white crossover vessel in this case provided the excellent results and was the runner up. Not as big a bowl as the other three but it captured the aromas and was goober-free. At $38 for 4 on Amazon, the price was comparable to the Tritan Forte. However, since I have (dangerously) broken many a Riedel stem while hand washing, the Tritan Forte edges it out for apparent durability. It’s an excellent glass for everyday use around the house that doubles as a great gift. I’ll drink to that.

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17 Responses to “Putting stemware to the test”

  1. The Tritan stemware – I have bought the Top 10 series, available from Brentwood Wine, has passed my tests. Two drops; once to the wood floor, once into the stainless sink (that has NEVER failed to break a Riedel). No damage.

  2. You can get some very durable glass barware at Pier 1 for $2 per glass (on sale for $1.60, when I bought mine the other day) in a pretty wide variety of shapes and heights. That’s for the value crowd whose friends are awed by the mere presence of wine and don’t need to be bludgeoned with a crystal chalice, to boot.

  3. I first saw the Tritan titanium glasses this spring – someone brought a few to a wine tasting and shocked everyone by bashing the glass against the bottle. No breakage.

    For your testing, which model of Forte glasses did you try? It seems like different stores have them labled differently. I would love to find a glass in the Forte lineup that compares to the Riedel Vinum Extreme Bordeaux but so far haven’t found one – I think the “Claret” glass at Brentwood looks the closest but any local stores only have the “Hearty Red” it seems.

  4. […] Riedel wine glasses. I break far more than my fair share. :)” [Hmm, maybe Josh should try the impact resistant glasses? -Dr. […]

  5. Thanks for the link love. The Tritan stemware really is wonderful.

  6. […] Whoa! Talk about a buzzkill cleaning several dozen glasses! I’ve had good luck with the Tritan Forte, which can be found for under $10 a stem, goes in the dishwasher, and is impact resistant (note: […]

  7. Has anyone tried the Eisch Glaskulter wine glass, that they are calling their Breathable Glass. We had three customers independently respond very positively after a blind taste test.


  8. This is great stuff, thanks for having the blog and putting details like this on it. Those of us with no writing skills really appreciate it. Believe me. we need more Info on proper stemware and the best ways to use it.

  9. Not much of a review, I ha d to read twice, looking for a comparison. Only the last 2 sentences give even a slight comparison.

  10. Gee I think you just didn’t get the Bottega del vino glasses. They are the most sturdy of all that you tested. Restaurants using Tritons have just as much breakage as those using Riedels. BUT BDV glassware has no lead, are 1 piece and are dishwasher safe. So please research before typing. Plus I have all of the mentioned glassware and none of them compare to BDV!

  11. Interesting article on Crystal Wine Glasses. Riedel are designed to enhance the taste of wine not the durability.

  12. I didn’t see much of a comparison between the glasses but I would like to weigh in on this discussion since we only sell stemware for premium beverages at our company. In our store in the suburbs of Atlanta we exclusively sell glassware and accessories. We have found that glassware choices – especially when it comes to stemware – is a more personal choice than you might expect. Lifestyle and use plays a huge part in the stemware that you should select.
    As Dr. Vino’s article suggests, the right glass for his use might not work for someone in a different situation. For example, the ‘O’ glass has received a good amount of criticism, but it was created by Max Riedel who was living in Manhattan at the time of its design. He realized that long stemmed wine glasses don’t fit in many cabinets and in some urban settings, people don’t have room to store bigger wine glasses. This is why he created the ‘O’ series. If you have limited the space, the trade off of having your hand warm the wine is a small one when it means that you aren’t giving up precious space for large wine glasses.
    This is how we should think of stemware. Look at all of the wonderful options and try a few glasses to figure out which one is right for you. That’s what we always recommend to our customers. If it helps, we have a short articles on each of the stemware manufacturers on our website. You can check out the article on Schott Zwiesel here.

  13. […] each. And the Tritan forte Schott-Zwiesel makes a titanium infused line of crystal glasses that really does reduce breakage. And, no, you don’t need to give a different glass for each grape […]

  14. […] in fact, need to reload after some met the maximum threshold of their resistance. Well, it had been a few years… window.fbAsyncInit = function() { FB.init({appId: "", status: true, cookie: true, xfbml: […]

  15. i prefer Riedel “O” glasses.

  16. I agree with you Neil. The Bottega Del Vino are the sturdiest of all his choices. Also he didn’t even use the correct glass to compare the wines properly. He should have been using the Rosso Amarone. Maybe we should have his job since it seems he didn’t really know what he was tasting to make comparisons too!

  17. […] Well, as I’ve written before, all wines are enhanced by good stemware. The titanium-infused line of “impact-resistant” stemware from Schott-Zwiesel have their virtues. At about $10 a stem, you could even break a few but they really are pretty resistant. […]


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