Periodically, I find it necessary to review my attitude toward the glassware in which I serve my wines. This review is prompted by the continuous barrage of ads and marketing promotions eager to sell wine glasses.
When I began using wine regularly, I was living in the Main River Valley where German innkeepers and wine producers presented their Sylvaners and Rieslings in Roemers, bowl-shaped glasses with a thick stem, named for the goblets used by rugged Roman legioneers with big hands. On the other side of the Rhine, the Alsace Rieslings and Sylvaners were served in smaller bowls on more delicate stems, presumably to showcase wines of more delicacy for grips deemed more gentile.
In Burgundy I met glasses with large bowls to release the fragrance of those famous Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, in Bordeaux the glasses were tulip-shaped to form chimneys for funneling the aromas (or bouquets) directly to the nose. And then there were the flutes — tall, slender bowls — in Champagne.
Our cabinets became filled with glasses of various shapes and sizes to conform to the traditional glassware used in the regions where the wines were produced. We found the wines of Piedmont, Rioja, the Loire, and elsewhere all seemed to be variations of the foregoing styles based on the grape variety from which the wine was made. Our glassware expenses also inflated considerably as we became convinced that crystal was more friendly to wine than mere glass, so Baccarat, Riedel, St-Louis, and others profited considerably from that discovery.
Whatever the style, however, these glasses shared common characteristics. The glass was clear to enable a good luck at the wine inside. Glasses had stems to preclude the consumer blocking the view of the wine or changing its temperature by holding the bowl. There was ample space inside the glass to allow for a bit of swirling to coax the aroma upward. All of this worked very well for me for years.
As I progressed into my dotage years, I largely ignored glassware displays in wine stores and upscale kitchen and dinnerware shops — till I began to notice things that troubled my zone of comfort with the traditional designs. In stores like Jungle Jim, Big Red, Total Wine, Liquor Barn, I began to notice glasses with etched sides, tinted sides, and designer shapes. What really got my attention was a new glass by Riedel which had no stem. It looked like an inverted pyramid on a pedestal, and left no chance to grip it without blocking the view or warming the contents.
Perhaps I am a target of such innovation. Having cabinets filled with the old, traditional glasses, I no longer buy wine glasses, so, it is hoped, I will succumb to something new and different. I will not. I will for the rest of my days hold my glass by a stem, sip my Pinot Noir from a rounded bowl, my Cabernets from a tulip, my Rieslings from a smaller bowl. I will look at my wine through the glass and swirl it so I can see it as well as breathe it. And that’s my latest review of my attitude toward wine glasses.