Cup your hands together. I’m going to tackle evolution here.
Once upon a time the cupped hands you have in front of you were all we had to drink from. Then, what with human cunning being what it is, we discovered how to make hollow glass – about three and a half thousand years ago, which must have been good news for early wine drinkers who could afford to trade up from the ol’ cupped hands.
Refinements of skill and fashion have changed the way our drinking glasses look over the centuries, but it’s only very recently that we’ve begun to consider seriously what effect the shape of the glass has on the taste of its contents. If you hadn’t realized that you had to worry about that, too, I apologize. It does seem like the last straw, I know.
But that’s where the evolution comes in. If you’re prepared to go along with Darwin and all that, and accept that the survival of the fittest means that birds end up with the perfect beak they need for the food that’s available to them, why shouldn’t there be a perfect wine glass for particular species of wine, whose shape and proportions concentrate aromas in just the right way and direct the nectar to exactly the right part of the tongue?
If you’re looking for someone to blame for all this, the buck pretty much stops with one Claus Josef Riedel, whose understated, undecorated long-stemmed wine glasses developed into a range of wine-specific stemware for the first time about thirty years ago. The Riedels’ company website is full of useful information.
Since then, the consensus of the wine world is that, broadly speaking, the appreciation of a given wine (or other alcoholic beverage) does vary with the glass it is served in. We keep one of the best all-round Riedel glasses from the comprehensive and relatively affordable Vinum range – the #6416/15 Chianti Classico/Riesling Grand Cru – in stock. It’s generously sized, gently tapered, almost quivers in your hand it’s so sinewy-delicate, and a lovely thing to drink wine from.
I’m not suggesting you have to have shelves and shelves of different glasses and only ever drink from exactly the approved one each time. I’m probably closer, personally, to the What Preposterous Nonsense! end of the scale of belief – if the only thing left clean to drink from in the domestic whirl is a tea mug, then a tea mug it shall be – but I would urge you to keep an open mind at least. No harm in putting a set of really good glasses on the wish list, and making up your own mind. After all, you’ve already let the cupped hands drop long ago.
I went to the Riedel tasting last year and I’m in the same field if not camp to you Julian.
I’ve tried it a few times at home, tasting Chardonnay from the Pinot Noir glass and the Chardonnay glass. Tastes great from both, but there is a subtle yet discernable difference, I guess bases on where and how much hits your tongue first.
The difference isn’t marked enough for me to start create a collection, at least not until I’ve managed to break all the Waterford Crystal, and I’m working on it.
A good glass, for me, adds a little bit of ceremony or occasion to the whole affair.
Thanks for sharing first-hand experience of Riedel!
Agreed about ceremony – if you are going to have a set of glasses for best, they may as well help you to get full value out of the for-best wines they’ll mostly contain.
Though, as someone who has to make a conscious effort to switch on his critical faculties when it comes to food and drink, I’ve also a soft spot for champagne coupes and coloured hock glasses &c. – anything that’ll make the wine police reach for their walkie-talkies.