Friday, March 4, 2011

In search of the perfect glass

"The perfect glass" being dictated, of course, by what is served in it. I may have gotten obsessive about this when I was becoming somewhat obsessive about beer. I treasure the few bars and pubs that make the effort to serve their beers (especially Belgian or Belgian-style) in the appropriate glass rather than pouring everything into a shaker "pint" designed for mixing cocktails.

Wineglasses are another subject entirely. I completely fail to grasp the need or distinction between a pinot glass, a burgundy glass, an Oregon pinot glass (wtf?) but I'm open to persuasion. I've been sold on the ickiness of a rolled rim, and I do understand the advantage of a glass large enough to really get my snout into. I've got glasses for red wines and different glasses for rosé or riesling, but there are subtleties I'm missing.

Beverages that sparkle, though, those I get. I love bubbles in my drink, be it water or juice or wine. Especially wine. As far as I'm concerned, it's impossible to go wrong with a decent sparkling wine and lately I've been churning through all sorts of moderately-priced and delicious sparklers -- cava from Spain, sparkling Riesling (well, not so moderately-priced) from Germany, proseccos and even a delicious wine from Georgia. No, not that Georgia, but Stalin's country. I've confidently poured them all into good flutes, which like the best pilsner glasses, encourage the formation and retention of bubbles. The carbonation not only provides the correct texture, but pushes the aromatics up and out, into my nose. What could be better?

The answer, it turns out, is a tulip.

So is the flute the proper glass for Champagne? Not so, according to winemakers at Chandon, Roederer, and Taittinger. Champagne is, after all, wine. Neither coupe nor flute allows the wine to fully express its aromatic qualities. There are actually two other possibilities, and they were explored together with coupes and flute glasses at a recent Maximilian Riedel tasting at the Manhattan Riedel showroom. 

Much more appropriate for a champagne-lover to enjoy the bubbly, especially if it is a “tĂȘte de cuvee” or a super-premium bottle, is the tulip glass. The glass is tall, but curves outwards to within a couple inches from the mouth, then curves inwards to the mouth. This design allows a little more space for swirling, and focuses the aromatics more towards the nose. Among the glasses we used for the tasting was the champagne tulip from the new Riedel Vitis line. The glass’ silhouette gracefully maximizes the surface-to-air space, allowing some aeration within the glass and the development of exceptional aromatics.
Clearly I needed tulips or my satisfaction would be shattered. Amazon couldn't deliver the goods, or at least not when I needed them. The Riedel Vitis glass turns out to be available at Macy's. Um, $40 a glass? I'm drinking $10 cava! Maybe there's something in the beer glass collection that will suit. Shuffle shuffle. What's this?

I got married (the first time) in 1983, and two of my favorite people, Sonja and Shannon, sent a wedding gift from Seattle. These two beautiful women sent two beautiful champagne glasses. Over the  years, I'd almost never used them, for fear of breaking them, or because other people were not enthusiastic about drinking from someone else's wedding gift, and the glasses were tucked way in the back of the cabinet for safety. Sonja had turned me on to real sparkling wine, Schramsburg, a year or two before the wedding gift. It's only taken me a bit over 25 years to catch up.Because, d'oh, the beautiful glasses were tulips and they are the most perfect glasses for drinking wine with bubbles.