Stickler oenophiles swear that it's criminal to use decorative wine glasses when sipping one's Screaming Eagle. Rest assured, there's no actual law against using a glass with a cluster of grapes painted on the side. The wine police are not going to break down your door during dinner to arrest you if your wine glasses are anything but clear.
The Importance of Seeing Wine
It's just a priori fact that wine glasses are supposed to be clear and transparent. Drinking wine is a sensory experience involving sight, smell, and taste. Fancy glasses with deviant fufu designs can distract or block the lush wine's color. Why is that important? Well, color reveals a wine's distinguishing traits, the pale gold of Chardonnay or the deep, dark purple of Syrah helps assess the type of wine, its terroir and its age. A Cabernet Sauvignon that has been cellared for many years turns from dark ruby in color to a wine with brown-red brick tints on its edges. A smiley face etched on the glass just gets in the way of seeing and appreciating the wine.
Mirth in a Glass
Okay. We've established that a whimsical glass with a Wookie on it interferes with the inherent pleasure of drinking wine, or at least for some people. So, why use decorative wine glasses? That's the point, wine is to be enjoyed. Sometimes people get a touch too highbrow about it, drinking a first growth Bordeaux as an act of piety and imbuing the effort with humorless profundity. Lighten up, people, have fun with it and ignore what many of those stiff wine pundits say. Now and then, you want to have fun and your Riedel glasses just don't seem appropriate for that rough and ready BBQ wine. Decorative wine glasses can work as a catalyst to liven up an occasion and for the host to add some punch to a party.
So what are these occasions to pull out all stops and bring out the Flintstone glasses or the über special Venetian wine glasses? Check out the following:
- 4th of July
- Groundhog Day
- Theme Parties
Whether it's Toga party time, Bastille Day, St. Patrick's Day, Divorce Celebrations, or Labor Day-they're all good excuses to pull out those green-tinted glasses, etched Champagne flutes, or proletariat Mason jars to imbibe your party wine.
There are endless styles and types of decorative wine glasses that work. Some are swank and refined, others less than shibui. Glasses can be broken down in various styles and shapes, ideally they should retain the standard bowl large enough to swirl the wine with a tapered rim to focus the wine's nose. There are colored wine glasses, cut-glass, and standard wine glasses that are painted or etched with objects or graphic design. You may also consider high art glasses as well such as Venetian glass or hand blown artisan glass. Here are some links to help you find some inspiration.
- La Fenice - A catalog source for various samples of Venetian glass befitting La Serenissima. Click on "Catalogo Prodotti" to access the catalog.
- Venetian Glass Art - No doubt a lumberjack would not be caught drinking their tough and gritty Zinfandel from these artistic wine glasses.
- Heart of Murano - This is a trade group site representing many Murano glassmakers.
- Salviati - Designer crystal from one of Murano's most prestigious glass companies. Elegant and gracious top-notch designs, just what you expect from Italians. Check out their Fenice line of stemware.
Hand Painted Glassware
- The Wine Diva -Occasionally capricious hand painted stemware.
- Lolita Wine Glasses - Who wouldn't want to drink their Sangria from one of Lolita's capricious glasses?
- Terry Newberry Glassware - Hand painted decorative stemware from Romania with Matisse-inspired motifs.
Some Crystal Manufacturers
- Kosta Boda - From Swedish crystal manufacturer, Orrefors.
- Orrefors - Creative glassware from Sweden's top crystal manufacturer.
When Crystal isn't Good Enough
- Ball Mason Jars - John Steinbeck's Tortilla Flats is set during WWI in Monterey, CA with its main characters, two paisanos named Danny and Pilon, drinking their cheap jug wine from Mason canning jars. If it was good enough for Danny and Pilon, it's good enough for me.
Paint Your Own
Get creative and paint your own glasses. Use glass paint that can be obtained at a good hobby shop, paint your glass and set the paint by heating the glass in the oven. I suggest not using your Riedel or Spiegelau as your masterpiece's canvas.