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Wine Glasses - Choosing the right glasses

Serving Wines

Sometimes when Irish friends come to visit me in Italy they have remarked on the habit of wine-makers in my village of drinking their wine out of tumblers. 'Why don't they use proper glasses? The ones with stems?' they ask. I suppose the answer is partly habit, and it's also partly a question of respect.

Sometimes when Irish friends come to visit me in Italy they have remarked on the habit of wine-makers in my village of drinking their wine out of tumblers. 'Why don't they use proper glasses? The ones with stems?' they ask. I suppose the answer is partly habit, and it's also partly a question of respect. To my Italian friends wine is an everyday drink, it always has been, even in childhood. You can still buy wine in supermarkets today that costs less per litre than Coca Cola, so if you're drinking a glass of that at lunchtime there's no reason why it should be treated any differently from any sparkling soft drink. It's a thirst quencher, no more than that, and especially in the summer we'll add the Italian equivalent of 7UP to our red plonk in fifty-fifty proportion, which incidentally makes a great lunchtime drink.

But if someone were to appear with a bottle of Brunello, Sassicaia or Tignanello the tumblers would be put away and the crystal glasses would come out. As I said, it's a question of respect - a good wine is improved by a good glass.

A good wine glass needs a couple of attributes: the glass should be clear so that the sparkle of the wine can be seen and it should be big enough so that you can swirl the wine in the glass without spilling it. That's important, as swirling the wine in the glass will release aromas as well as aerating the wine. To get the best from the aromas that are released from the wine, the most effective glass shape is the 'tulip' shaped glass - wide at the bottom and narrowing towards the lip, concentrating the aromas for you to sniff appreciatively.

When it comes to Champagne there are two schools of thought: that it should be drunk as other fine wines out of tulip-shaped glasses that preserve the bubbles. The more traditional 'coupe', the wide, shallow glass allegedly based on Marie-Antoinette's breast, loses bubbles much more quickly - but then again a glass of Champagne rarely lasts very long in my hands anyway.

Riedel is a famous name in glassware and the company has just brought out a new range called the 'wine tumbler'. It's a stemless glass, but its bowl shape is the same as the stemmed wine glass. It's intensely practical since it's stable, making it ideal for picnics, being put down in the presence of large dogs and children and it's easy to stack in the dishwasher. I've been using one all week for tasting and I'm becoming very attached to it.

Recommended wine

Barbera 2001, Brown Brothers

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