The wine glass challenge
As the dark nights, and sometimes afternoons, draw in, I am mostly thinking of whether I have the energy to invite people round for dinner. We definitely owe some return entertainment, but it’s not the cooking I worry about, it’s the wine glasses.
A quick glance in the cupboard reveals a sorry state. There are four differently sized wine glasses. There’s one resembling a bucket on a stick that could probably accommodate an entire bottle of wine. There’s a smaller, thin-necked glass. There’s a little round bulb on a short stem. And there’s a plastic Crémant ‘glass’. They must have all had companions at some stage, but now they stand forlornly, the last of their kind.
The obvious and easiest solution would be to nip to IKEA and buy a six pack of utility wine glasses, but the clever person who designed our kitchen made every cupboard just that bit too small for any of the Swedish stock.
I’ve also come to realise at quite a late stage in life that chucking wine into any old glass is not really the ‘done’ thing. Though I’ve swigged Chinese champagne and some incredibly rough desert wine in a tin mug (no, that’s not a spelling mistake – the latter really does make riding a camel easier), I know I have reached a stage in life when it’s time to take the wine glass challenge.
And what a challenge it is, though – there are so many types. You’ve got your flute, your tulip, your coupe, your hock and your tumbler. You need different glasses for Burgundy, Bordeaux, Chardonnay, Riesling and Sherry.
I discover that the large bucket on a stick is meant for a full-bodied red wine. The rounder, smaller glass should be used for lighter red wines, the smaller, thinner-necked glass for white.
Why, precisely? Well, because thinner glasses preserve the floral aromas of white wines and keep the temperature cooler for longer. The larger, more open-topped glasses for reds burn away the ethanol that give it a rough taste, so it slips more smoothly down the throat. The glasses for Sherry and Port are teeny not to keep your grandmother from getting tipsy at family gatherings but rather to prevent the alcohol from burning off.
Despite the extremely complicated sound of all this, I decide to try it out. I pick a nice Riesling and pop it in the smaller, thin-necked glass. The only aroma I get is that of petrol, but the wine does stay cold for longer. It’s not hard to find a quality, cut-price Bordeaux in this country, so I test out the bucket-on-a-stick glass. Sure, the wine tastes good, but that’s probably because I’ve drunk half a bottle in just one glass.
Wine has its secrets
According to Forbes – which, when it’s not fretting over share prices, likes to run articles on wine glasses – Austrian hand-blown Zalto glasses are the best for learning "all the little secrets" from a wine. I’ve never thought about getting any secrets from a wine. I always thought it was you, not your glass, who gave away all your little secrets after imbibing. So, if the grapes could talk, what would they say about the goings on in the Moselle Valley?
Eventually, I decide I am not cut out to take wine this seriously. Plus, I don’t have enough space in my small house to store several different sets of glasses. The standard bulb-shaped glass on a sturdy stem will have to do.
If wine is best supped from a specific glass, does the same hold true for beer? Orange juice? Water? More important, since the festive season is almost upon us, should I be glugging my glüwain from a mug, a fish bowl, a glass slipper … or just straight from the bottle?