Goblets and Dixy Cups

The wine revolution is doing more than just changing how and where wine is grown, it is changing the way we enjoy wine. It’s no secret that wine can be savored just as much in a Dixie cup as the best leadless glassware if you have the right attitude, but there is noticeably more to enjoy in glasses that are constructed to let the wine open-up.

Some manufacturers take the art of glass-making to the highest level of craftsmanship, constructing glasses that are designed to bring out the best in certain grape varieties. An example might be a glass that is crafted specifically for a sweet wine like a Sauterne. The rim will curve in just the right way to direct the wine to the sides of the tongue first, where we taste acidity, in order to help balance the forward sweetness of the wine.

And then there is the Italian country style of drinking wine, in which wine may be sipped from small cups in order to endure the numerous rounds of toasts and glass-banging that can occur over the course of a single spirited meal. In Japan, Sake will be pored into a small box that sits on a plate until it is overflowing - a sign of hospitality.

The beauty of wine glasses in today’s world is that there are so many wondrous varieties - enough to amass a small collection of diverse styles that cater to certain moods. A formal meal with clients or a romantic dinner may be more suited towards well-crafted glasses with thin, elegant shapes. A barbeque with friends might be more suited towards durable glass cups, and an ethnic dinner might be more suited to glassware that reflects the culture the meal originated from.

There is a great deal of fun to be had with the glasses that are a necessary companion to drinking wine, and that should forever remain the point - to have fun. If you appreciate how the aromas and flavors explode when you drink a Bordeaux from a Riedel Bordeaux-Style Glass, then by all means - collect Riedel. On the other hand, if you’re easily frustrated with how often your glasses break, you might want something more durable. And naturally, you might want a little of both.

Some General Guidelines

No matter what your style and mood preference is for wine glasses, here are a few things to keep in mind as you build a collection that suits your taste:

Glasses for Everyday Use –It’s always a good idea to have at least some glasses that you can bring out at parties and events that can stand the test of time, particularly if it helps to use the dishwasher. Affordability is also a primary consideration with these glasses!

Buy two more than you think you need –Yes, it’s true, no matter how careful you are with your stemware, glass tends to break. Kids, spouses, friends and pets can never be trusted. It’s a good rule of thumb to buy two extra glasses to keep in a safe pace when you acquire a new glass set.

Red vs. White: Don’t worry about it! –It’s one of those traditions that we don’t understand. Smaller glasses for white and larger glasses for red. If you like having different sizes of glass around just for the aesthetic variation, great! But white wine needs as much space to open up as red wine, and the fact that it’s served in a slightly smaller glass is a relic from times long gone. The nuances of today’s whites are every bit as dramatic and complex as the world’s best reds and there’s no reason to discriminate.

Colors or no colors? –Whatever you like! Many wine drinkers appreciate a completely smooth, clear glass so you can take in the fine points of the wine’s color. But if you like a streak of purple in your wine glass, go for it.

Buy flutes for Champagne and Sparkling Wine –Bubbles are not only part of the art form of sparkling wine, they are cool. A long flute ensures the bubbles have a long way to travel before they reach the surface, improving the experience all around.

The end of the Stem –It used to be par for the course that you would get glassware equipped with a long stem to prevent your hand from heating up the wine in the glass too fast. That tradition has been single-handedly overturned by Riedel with the release of its O Series in late 2004. These glasses are in the Italian style but more dramatic. They have the glass bowl component in as much refined beauty as the standard series, but no stem at all! It’s true that the presence of your hand on the glass will warm the wine within, but many people enjoy the divergence from a long standing tradition. Like anything having to do with wine in the 21st century, the choice is entirely yours!