This year I’m not jumping on the bandwagon of holiday gifting guides. It isn’t because I’m averse to handy round-ups of ideas; it’s more that I frankly have no idea what your friends and loved ones would like to receive this holiday season, and I’ve given my crystal ball the rest of the year off.
I have, however, been paying close attention these past few months to occasions in the wine world when someone has been made unexpectedly happy (joyous, even) by a person or experience or thing.
Which brings me to the topic of wine glasses, the first in this month’s series of joy-inducing observations that you may or may not choose to interpret as a gift idea this holiday season.
Recently some friends and I were visiting the newly redesigned Louis Martini winery, just south of Healdsburg in the Napa Valley. We were downstairs tasting the 2015 Monte Rosso Cabernet Sauvignon, using Riedel wine glasses that were designed intentionally for Martini cabs.
It was just the right moment, for hearing just the right words to describe the experience, as we tasted just the right wine.
It was a happy eye-opener for just about everyone in the group., so much so that a friend of ours bought a cool dozen glasses before we left. “I learned a critical lesson,” he said later, about the relationship between the aesthetics of shape and the pragmatism of function.
Here are three other considerations when deciding on a wine glass that both fits well in your hand and adds more joy to the experience of drinking wine.
Consider the weight.
The weight of the wine, that is, and the weight of the glass as well. For me, a lighter glass in terms of weight feels better in my hand as I hold it by the stem. It’s more comfortable and less bulky, the way that a silk undershirt is less bulky than a wool sweater (and warmer, to boot).
At some point I recognized, too, that the weight of the wines I tend to drink most often is also lighter and less “bulky.” Gamay rather than big cabernet sauvignon, for example, or grüner veltliner rather than oaky chardonnay.
Riedel, the Austria-based glass manufacturer, has long hung their hat on making specific wine glasses for specific grapes and wine styles. I get it, though an even simpler premise is to match the weight of the glass with the weight of the wine.
If something’s easy, we’re more likely to do it.
That’s the convenient truth that lies, quite smartly, beneath the idea of wine critic Jancis Robinson and designer Richard Brendon’s intentionally small, tight line of glassware.
The line is anchored by, appropriate enough, The Wine Glass. Robinson and Brendon don’t capitalize the THE (as in THE Wine Glass) but they may as well. There’s no fussing over which shape of glass goes with which wine you’re pouring, or whether guests will bicker over stemmed glasses or stemless. Just reach for The Wine Glass, and you’re done. The fact that it’s light and elegant in my hand – just the weight I happen to prefer – adds to the appeal.
In Good Shape.
The Wine Glass has some competition in the “convenience matters” department and it comes most directly, for me, from the “One for All” universal wine glass from Gabriel-Glas which (like competitors Riedel and Zalto) is also based in Austria. Some nights it’s a toss up, as both The Wine Glass and the Gabriel-Glas universal glasses are satisfyingly graceful and easy to reach for, and they are both delicate yet durable.
When the Gabriel-Glas wins out is when my eye catches the more pronounced pear-shaped curves toward the bottom of the Gold Edition glass. Ironically this seems to happen more often when I’m drinking alone than when I’m with a group, as if a glass that’s a little more luxe is more fitting for this gentle self-care ritual.
It’s a treat, enhanced just that much by the glass itself.
Bonus: The Decanter
You’ll notice that most wine companies who offer stemware also offer decanters as part of their lines. On this front I’d vote for a carafe style, namely the Zalto Carafe No. 150. Unlike decanters with a wide bottom at the base of a long, narrow neck, the carafe design is a more familiar shape and pouring motion in addition to the benefits, like the wine glasses I mention above, of lightness, elegance and durability.