The best non-book gift for wine geeks to give: good stemware

Advice columns this time of year frequently suggest wine gifts. Such columns often target the generalist reader who’s not that into wine but is looking for a gift to give to a wine-loving friend or relative. Flipping this model on its head, here’s what wine geeks need to give their friends and relatives who are marginally into wine: good stemware.

Yes, there’s certainly a strong argument to give them a bottle of wine itself–we certainly need plenty of it at this time of year. But wine itself can be a hit or a miss and, either way, it’s here today, empty tomorrow and, all too often, forgotten when the recycling bin is emptied. Certainly books have a tendency of sticking around longer and as the author of two wine books, I highly recommend giving the gift of wine books. A good corkscrew (such as pulltaps) is a nice touch, but really not essential since even the dreaded butterfly corkscrew can get the job done.

Thus, glasses. I think this even came up in the Bible: give a friend a bottle of wine, and you give him or her enjoyment for just one evening. But give him or her good stemware (or a good wine book for learning more about how to choose good wine!), and you will will elevate your friends’ wine enjoyment for months if not years to come. Many are under $10 a stem. Riedel makes handsome stems but, in my experience, I have found them very easy to break. Ravenscroft also has solid stems, starting at $7.50 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 variety.

So go crazy and help your friends say cheers with style this holiday season with some good stemware, the best non-wine book gift that you can give to your friends and relatives who are getting into wine.

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13 Responses to “The best non-book gift for wine geeks to give: good stemware”

  1. Being a Wine & Spirits retailer I think the best gift would be your book, A Year of Wine. But with a gift certificate to a local wine merchant tucked in.
    Happy Holidays!

  2. I still think it is the best idea to give the “big ass glass” (aka Riedel Sommelier), preferably in the Burgundy-style. As a wine lover, there is nothing I would rather receive than an $85-100 glass that can hold more wine than should be legal. Brilliant!

    FYI if my wife is reading this, this is what I want!

  3. Andrea Robinson is also making a very nice pair of generalist glasses, one red and one white, that suit almost any wine.

  4. Question: Does anyone have an opinion about whether the Riedel Vinum XL glasses are better for Oregon Pinot Noir than a standard Burgundy glass (I have the Tritan version)? I keep reading good reviews from Oregon winemakers, but I can’t tell how much is real and how much is either hype or the power of suggestion.

  5. Christine – As someone who lives and works in the wine industry here in Oregon, let me give you some insight:

    It really depends on the vintage. I LOVE the Riedel Oregon PN Glass for every vintage except 2003/2006/certain 08’s/2009 vintages. Why? The glass does not work for wines made in ‘bigger’ vintages or styles. The glass showcases the nuances of Oregon Pinot Noir that we ‘should’ be known for. Get yourself some of those gorgeous 07’s (don’t let the media fool you) such as the “jamsheed” from Maysara $24/btl and pour it into the Oregon glass….you will not be disappointed.

    The Riedel ‘Extreme” Burgundy glass works great for ‘bigger’ OR vintages, and high end CA Pinot Noir.

    I think stemware is the greatest non-wine gift you can give. You will learn a hell-of-a-lot more by tasting wine than buy reading about it (no offense Dr.)….STEMWARE: IT REALLY MAKES A DIFFERENCE. But, there are exceptions.

  6. Jeff: Thanks for the insight. I have three bottles left of a case of the ’07 Jamsheed, so it will be a good test if the glasses show up under the Christmas tree!

  7. Ha, thanks, Mike!

    Erol – is this what you are looking for? 😉

    Hi David – thanks for stopping by.

    Hi Christine – funny you say “good reviews from Oregon winemakers…” about the glas–FYI, the Oregon winemakers collaborated with/commissioned the glass from Riedel!

    I confess to being quite skeptical of the differences between the two glasses but confess to not having actually tried the Oregon one.

    Jeff- no offense taken! Glad you also like good stemware.

  8. The Oregon Pinot glasses are a lot of fun, but can be a bit of a pain to wash. This coupled with my history of knocking stems off of my restaurant series caused me to retire them from regular use. Getting a decently shaped set of stemless was my best glassware purchase in recent memory. I still bring out the nicer stems for nicer meals, but for day to day drinking and glasses you aren’t afraid to bring out on the patio they can’t be beat.

    I understand not everybody is tolerent of the stemless, though. Crate & Barrel and Ikea both have some great everyday stemless.

  9. I like to give wine glasses made of black glass so friends can do “blind tastings” at home. I’m not sure how much these cost in the U.S., but I get them at a market here in Beijing for ~USD2 a glass, which translates to USD12 for a half-dozen or USD24 for a dozen. And the ones I buy have glass so dark you cannot tell if the wine is red, white, or rose once it is poured. (For the record, they work well for whiskey tastings too.)

    Cheers, Boyce

  10. When I read this post I ordered four of recommended Ravenscroft wine glasses. They arrived today and I am very pleased with them so far. One reason I ordered them is because I am hoping that they are more durable than others that I have purchased. A sticker on the glass indicates that they are made in China. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. This Christmas I bought my x Chinese fresh water cultured pearls. They are stunning.

    Thanks for the recommendation and happy holidays.

  11. I used an gift card to buy two of the Riedel Oregon pinot glasses – and I have to confess, they do a terrific job of concentrating the aroma and taste. I was surprised, really, when I did the taste test with a bottle of $14 GC Commuter Cuvee 2009. Really brought the fruit forward and made it shine. I’m looking forward to trying others.

    At $25 each, though, these are very expensive (my Tritan Forte everyday glasses are about $8-$9 per stem), so I am very much hoping these are not as breakable as Riedels often are. It also would be great if Schott Zwiesel could produce a similar glass, although I recognize this particular design may be patented.

  12. Looking for a whimsical wine bottle dog poop baggie dispenser? Take a look at Chateau Du Poo Poo from Smelly Vineyards under e-store wine decor at

  13. We thoroughly enjoyed our wine country trip to Willamette Valley, Oregon last year. Many of the wineries serve tastings in large Pinot Noir glasses. It really does make a difference in the tasting experience. So, for Christmas I gave my boyfriend the Riedel Vinum Pinot Noir Wine Glasses with a stemware cleaning brush. We enjoyed our last bottle of Vitae Springs Pinor Noir 06 from these glasses. Every Pinot drinker should own a set. They are more expensive than other glasses, but are totally worth it! The experience and tasting are tremendously improved. Adding a stemware brush to the gift is essential. They are delicate, large glasses that require a long narrow cleaning brush.


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