Glasses having a bowl and foot—separated by a stem—are called stemware. Stems can be short, tall, plain, faceted, colored or embellished; some stems are shaped to encase an ornamental tear-drop bubble of air.
Stems are designed for holding—so one’s hand temperature won’t affect the temperature of wine or other beverages to be sipped from the bowl. Therefore, stems must be sturdy.
Stems can be shaped from a separate gather of molten glass and then stuck to the bowl and foot while each part is still hot— or stems can be drawn (or pulled) from the gather of molten glass from which the bowl is shaped — then attached to the foot while all parts are still hot. Stuck or drawn, seamless attachment of stems to both bowl and foot is an indication of good quality.
STEMWARE SHAPES AND SIZES:
Round, straight or flared bowls of stemware are made to please all preferences. Glass producers usually market suites for each shape in sizes suitable for each beverage. Approximate capacity:
water: 12 to 17 oz
champagne: 6 to 8 oz
brandy: 2 to 25 oz
cocktail: 4 to 9 oz.
cordial: 2 oz.
wine: Capacity varies according to each varietal.
My brother gifted me with wine tasting classes at NYC’s Four Seasons restaurant. Our instructors were well-known, international wine experts. Before our ‘first tasting’—they emphasized how the size and shape of a glass changes one’s taste and perception of different varietals.
To prove this, we were given different sizes and shapes of stemware for tasting different red and white varietals — including sparkling wines. We were quickly convinced of the difference and importance of using correct glasses for ultimate enjoyment of each wine.
Storage for a variety of wine glasses is a problem
for many of us but ‘all-purpose’ wine glasses are
not a solution; I consider them ‘marketing spin’.
CHARACTERISTICS OF GOOD WINE GLASSES :
- A sheer transparency to enjoy the color of the wine
- A fine polished thin lip for aesthetic pleasure
- A sturdy stem for holding
- A secure base for proper stability
- A rounded bowl with thin lips and poured only 1/3 full— to allow the wine to be properly swirled in order to capture the bouquet and examine the ‘legs’ of the wine. Our instructors felt Americans ‘over pour’ wine because they don’t want to appear cheap.
George Riedel of the renowned Austrian glass company writes: “Every shape is especially engineered to shape the flow of the wine into the mouth, delivering it to a precise part of the tongue in order to give specific sensations—the shape not only changes the taste of the wine, it shows different elements of the bouquet.”
There are shapes and sizes of both lead-crystal and soda-glass stemware to please all tastes at all prices. Most manufacturers produce table-setting suites with glasses for water, different varietals of red and white wine and for dessert or fruit. Other popular shapes are usually available in a broad range of sizes.
Despite marketing pressure to buy glasses of the same suite,
water goblets and wine glasses don’t have to match;
In fact, cocktail, martini, and champagne glasses seldom match
table stemware. Mixing stemware shapes and styles —depending
upon each beverage—creates more interesting table settings!
Stemmed glasses with saucer shaped bowls were originally made for champagne. Today, saucer shape is suggested for fruit and ice cream; flute shaped glasses better contain and maintain champagne bubbles.
Changing all table settings in the Gift Gallery every two weeks was great fun.I was able to choose linens, dishes, glasses, flatware and accessories from our international collections.
When I saw very tall and very purple stemware cased with white in a New York showroom, I envisioned striking table settings— and ordered them in every size.
The distinguished importer suggested—very politely—that I order the purple glasses for water and dessert only and order all wine sizes of the same shape in clear glass—to better savor the color and clarity of the wine.
Customers loved the purple glasses:
even more, they loved that everything didn’t match!
Glasses without stems are tumblers. It’s suggested the name came from glasses made with a convex base —to force glasses to be emptied before being set on a table—when of course, they’d tumble.
Capacity of basic tumblers:
Hi-ball or water : 12 to 18 oz.
Old-fashioned or juice : 7 to 12 oz.
Double old -fashioned: 12 to 16 oz.
Pilsners: 17 oz.
From aperitifs to cordials, glasses for red wine, white wine, rose‘, champagne, sherry, martinis, manhattans, whiskey sours, margaritas, cosmopolitans, piña coladas, Campari, Kir, ouzo, et cetera are designed to enhance the pleasure of each of these traditional, international wines, spirits and mixed drinks. However, specific shapes and sizes of glasses for serving specific drinks may differ from country to country—restaurant to restaurant.
Brandy drinkers sniff brandy and snifters come in all sizes. Some beer drinkers like to drink from the bottle but beer mugs and pilsner glasses turn beer into a special occasion. The tradition of green stemmed glasses for Rhine wine prevails centuries after they were made to detract from a ‘greenish wine’ due to incorrect mixing of grapes; but why not use their unique size and shape for cocktails?
Before drinking, we raise our glass and offer cheers!
au votre santé! bottoms’ up!, tchin tchin!, Prosit!,
Skål!, Salute!; then—‘clink’ our filled glasses in
Glasses for specific drinks are available from molded soda-glass to mouth-blown soda-glass and mouth-blown lead crystal, which cost the most and ‘clink’ the clearest. Paper and plastic glasses don’t ‘clink’.
WHICH DO YOU BUY?
There’s plenty of tradition: no rules.
- Are you likely to entertain formally or informally?
- How important is it for you to have the ‘correct’ glass for each drink?
- Assess your storage space.
- Plan what you can spend and choose two to four ‘drinks’ you commonly serve (e.g. red wine, white wine, beer, champagne). Select glasses you like and can easily replace.
- Want more? Try stemware with wiggly stems—in funky colors—and start a trend!
Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY
My next post: JUDGING THE QUALITY OF GLASSWARE