I occasionally find myself opening a bottle of wine at a friend's ill-equipped house, and don't have any wine glasses handy.

What type of serving cup/glass can I substitute for a proper wine glass in these situations? Specifically for red wine, but answers for other wines would be helpful, too.

I understand the reason for a long stem is to keep body heat away from the wine, so this makes me think may be a coffee cup (where body heat is kept away via the handle) might be a reasonable substitute... but then the shape of the glass I understand is also important, no?

2 Answers 2


Trying to keep your body heat from the wine is only necessary for chilled wines (whites, for the most part). For those served at room temperature (most reds), you actually want your body heat to warm the wine.

I've been to plenty of places that use 'stemless wine glasses' (about the size of a red wine glass, maybe a little larger, but no stem underneath) for reds. I've also been to places that just use mason jars.

For whites, if you're at a dinner table, it's not going to matter as much, as you can put your glass down. The problem comes when you're standing around with your glass. You can get around the problems by making sure that the wine is well chilled, and don't serve as much per glass (so they don't hold it so long that it warms up). Handled glasses can help, but I wouldn't go for a large beer mug like Cos recommended -- I'd use a smaller mug for coffee or tea.

One exception would be your bubbly wines. You want something tall and narrow for those.

None of these have the characteristic wine glass shape, with the smaller opening at the top, which is going to help concentrate the aromas, so if you have any glasses that are shaped like that, consider using those. And you don't want to fill any glass of wine more than half full, so that you have space for the vapors to collect.

  • +1 - But "don't serve as much per glass (so they don't hold it so long that it warms up)" - that's probably somewhat offset by the fact that there's a lower thermal mass then.
    – rfusca
    Oct 17, 2011 at 14:29
  • 1
    I went to a wine tasting led by the ceo of Riedel US, and he maintained that a wide bodied chardonnay glass was ideal for bubbly wines with better nose developing with the appropriate size pour and airspace vs a traditional flute.
    – yossarian
    Oct 17, 2011 at 15:24
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    The alcohol soluble compounds that have built up on most 'well used' coffee mugs/cups are likely to pollute your wine with Chateau du Folgers. The glass of the Beer Mug is going to allow you to 'cleanly' enjoy the flavors of your wine.
    – Cos Callis
    Oct 17, 2011 at 19:18
  • @Cos : good point ... some people actually drink coffee.
    – Joe
    Oct 17, 2011 at 19:32

In addition to the answer provided by @Angelo to Why do drinks drunk from a glass instead of a bottle taste differently? an additional value of stem ware is that allows the drinker to hold a glass of wine without convecting their body heat to the wine.

With these points in mind for Red Wine (and yes, this will "look" funny) serving it in small portions (3-5 oz) in a 10-12 oz BEER MUG will provide the surface area and insulation to enjoy flavors of the wine... well, if you can resist the urge to "Chug" from the mug anyway.

As for Whites, a collins glass (tall thin) glass, again in smaller portions, will allow the drinker to hold the glass near the rim as the wine rests safely in the bottom of the glass.

  • 1
    Um ... you want the reds to warm up. You actually hold a red wine glass from the bowl, not the stem, so that your body heat warms it.
    – Joe
    Oct 17, 2011 at 13:37
  • Um...NO.. you want reds (most reds) to be at room temp rather than warm. If you look at ANY wine tasters guide you will find the taster holding the glass by the stem. You should allow reds to breath during which they achieve room temp. whatscookingamerica.net/Information/WineTasting.htm
    – Cos Callis
    Oct 17, 2011 at 17:08

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