Put on some New Glasses for the
By Jim Clarke
It’s the time of year
when everyone’s raising their glasses to make toasts, and
the shape of those glasses is becoming more and more varied. A large
chunk of the pleasure in wine comes from its aromas; many of today’s
glasses cater to the aromas of a particular varietal or style of
wine. For example, a glass for aromatic Red Burgundies is fatter
than a Bordeaux glass; greater surface area in the wide glass gives
more play to the aromas. A narrower glass would overly intensify
the nose of the wine and obscure some of its complexity. However,
a Bordeaux, being generally less overt on the nose, often profits
from the concentration a slimmer glass provides.
brought these ideas to the marketplace about 30 years ago. He passed
away this year, but the family company, which has been making crystal
glasses for 11 generations, continues to lead in the field. In 2004
the Austrian firm consolidated their dominance by buying out their
closest competitor, F.X. Nachtmann, best know for
the Spiegelau brand. These two companies produce
a large number of lines that cater to diverse visual aesthetics
while following the basic principles of varietal-specific glasses.
Riedel also cut their own legs
out from under them during the past year. Claus’s grandson,
Maximilian, wanted to offer a line that suited younger, apartment-dwelling
wine drinkers by offering a less delicate glass that took up less
room. His solution was to cut off the stems from their traditional
glasses and flatten the base of the bowl just enough to keep it
upright; in tribute to its unusual, round appearance, they called
the series “O.” Think of them as contacts
instead of spectacles – no frames.
I love these glasses. I live
in a small New York apartment, crowded with books, wine cellars,
and candlemaking equipment (courtesy of my roommate). Stemware lives
in my apartment like wild animals in a cage: it’s bad for
their health. I have a set, of course, but almost all of my home
wine-drinking is on the couch or in front of the computer, not at
the dining room table; there are too many opportunities for me to
destroy my tall stemware. Traditional glasses follow the “bigger-they-come,
harder-they-fall” rule, while the low center of gravity saves
the “O” glasses from death-by-being-knocked-over (they
still don’t do well with heights, of course). Because of the
bowl shape the varietal-specific qualities of each glass remain
intact, as does the grace and style of an eye-pleasing design.
The “O” glasses
also store well, because they’re stackable, which is important
when you’re low on space. The biggest downside of the “O”
series is getting your fingerprints all over the bowl; if it really
bothers you, I suggest gloves.
Another new product this year
comes from the German company Eisch. To complement
their fine range of wineglasses, the company has developed a decanter
that absolutely refuses to drip. Inspired by the way a lotus leaf
sheds water, the “No Drop Effect” decanter has a specially
treated rim; after pouring, a bead of wine teases you by balancing
the decanter’s lip, steadfastly refusing to fall on the tablecloth
(or couch, in my case). But it doesn’t fall, nor does it drip
down the edge of the decanter. Eisch makes both round, “flying
saucer” and “duck” models; the former is elegant,
svelte, and modern, while the latter can be easier to handle and
takes up less space on the table.
Finally, if you like to bring
wine with you when camping but don’t like giving up on stemware,
go get a set of GSI’s Lexan wine glasses.
The Lexan plastic has more of the shine and look of glass than any
other plastics I’ve seen, and much less of the obvious synthetic
aromas that are an unwelcome addition to wine. It only comes in
one shape, but the unscrewable base fits into the bowl for easy
packing, either in your backpack or a Christmas stocking.
Buying guide to glass shapes:
These five shapes cover most of the more usual varietals. If you
have the budget and room for more glasses there are shapes that
cater to individual varietals more specifically (pictures shown
include glasses from Eisch’s Vin Nobile and Jeunesse lines).
||This larger glass is great
for most big reds:
Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah/Shiraz, Bordeaux, Malbec, etc.
||Fatter glasses are great for more aromatic
reds like Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo.
||A smaller glass with the same basic
profile as the “big red” glass is suitable for
most dry white wines.
||The classic Champagne flute for sparkling
wines. Avoid anything remotely like the old-fashioned coupe;
it disperses both the aromas and the bubbles of your sparkling
||If you’re a fan of dessert wines,
sherry, and the like, it’s worthwhile to invest in some
smaller port glasses. Otherwise use your white wine glasses,
but pour with a light hand.
GSI Lexan glasses are available at most camping outfitters
^ Top of page