The above photograph is a sampling of my ragtag stemware/glassware collection. I have some fairly nice wine glasses, including some Riedel glasses, and some pretty cheap glasses. I also have some favorites.
For instance, the small rocks glass in the lower right corner was “borrowed” about ten years ago from Buckley’s Tavern in Greenville, Delaware by my ex-wife. (Okay, it was at my suggestion.) When filled with two fingers of good scotch and a splash of water, it feels awfully nice in my hand.
Even though I have a Riedel scotch glass, which I do use on occasion, I really like the heft and size of that little, cheap glass.
There’s been a great deal of discussion in the wine community about stemware and Riedel glasses in particular. Riedel's selection of location/varietal-specific wine glasses is seemingly endless, and many other manufacturers have jumped on board as well. Does an Oregon pinot noir really need its own glass?
Many years ago, I attended a Riedel tasting, where we compared the same wine in various glasses: cheap wine glasses, the proper Riedel glass and the “wrong” Riedel glass.
The impact on the aroma and flavor of the wine from one glass to another was undeniable to me. The wines all showed much better in the proper glass. I became a believer.
I live in the real world, however. I can’t really afford to always drink from expensive wine glasses, much less own glasses for all the various types of wine I drink. (Where the hell is my tempranillo glass?)
Not to mention, my wine drinking does not always take place in a controlled setting—my concrete porch is quite unforgiving when it comes to wine glasses.
With all this in mind, I use a variety of glasses, depending on the occasion. Great wines get the good glasses; clumsy guests get the cheap ones.
My little story about the scotch glass reminds me of an important aspect to wine and stemware pairing—sensory pleasure.
Really great glasses feel great in your hand. They look beautiful. They’re balanced, just the right size and downright sexy. Even some of my cheap glasses fit the bill and might easily be mistaken for expensive (except for the off-key "clank," instead of the melodious ring of crystal when glasses meet).
My latest favorites are actually very simple water goblets from Nachtmann. They work great for white wines and aren’t a bad size for reds either, especially lighter-bodied reds. They're beautiful, and they feel great in my hand. They were über-cheap at a discount store—because of some minor flaw, no doubt.
Wine is definitely a sensory experience, so it makes sense that one should pay attention to what type of vessel you’re using. But, the most expensive or “correct” glass isn’t always the right one.
The right one just feels right.
Note: Buckley’s Tavern is located in Greenville, Delaware, which is right outside of Wilmington and not far from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. It is one of my favorite places in the world—a place where blue-collar workers rub shoulders with multi-millionaires. It’s got great food, great beer and wine, and a cool roof-top deck. If you’re ever in the area, don’t miss it; and if you live in the area and don’t know about Buckley’s—shame on you.
And, I hope that plug makes up for the unauthorized use of their glassware.