I have a confession to make. Actually, scratch that, I have two confessions to make.
1. Confession #1 – I really LOVE nice glassware.
To me, few sights are as beautiful as a well-laid, well-lit restaurant table with white linen, good cutlery and really nice glasses for wine and water. For me it’s a vital part of the pleasure of eating out – as important as the lighting, the food and the service.
And it’s a simple pleasure you can easily recreate and enjoy at home without spending a fortune. Trust me, the simple act of enjoying wine out of a decent glass can elevate a dinner party into something a bit more special. No challenging culinary tricks to master, no cheffy flourishes needed. This is all about front of house. YOUR house!
2. Confession #2 – This was not always the case.
A few years ago Paola dragged me along to a tasting where the whole point of the evening was to compare a standard pub wine glass to a specific glass for each wine served.
I’ll be honest – I was convinced it was pure silica snake oil. To me, fine glasses in different shapes were the wine equivalent of very expensive hi-fi cables – items sold to mugs with money to burn and an empty shelf to fill.
And I came out of that tasting in absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the best wine in the world, drunk from a rubbish glass will taste – at the very best – a bit average. I’d been wrong all this time. Badly wrong. Miley Cyrus wrecking-ball wrong. That night I had my Pauillac conversion.
After that, I went on a bit of a mission to find out just how much of a difference the various shapes made to the whole wine experience. Do you need a dozen different glasses in various sizes and shapes? The short answer is no, you don’t. Just three shapes will allow you to enjoy just about any wine you’re likely to drink at home.
Ideally your glasses will have a bit of crystal in them (so they’ll also sound every bit as good as they look) and be lightweight, so there is less glass between you and the wine.
At Park+Bridge we stock two very carefully chosen collections of glasses from Glass&Co, a company that supplies some of the best restaurants. They are crystal and machine made, all in one piece, which lessens the chance of breaking.
THREE STEMS TO HEAVEN
Whether you prefer the Contemporary style or the Classic, each selection is designed to let you and your friends get the most out of your wine (and they look pretty stunning on any table too).
1. A Champagne flute. Our preference is the tulip-shaped Contemporary glass, as we think it helps you get more of the aromas from sparkling wine which heightens the experience. But we know it is a shape too far for some people, so we also stock the elegant Classic style too.
2. A smaller glass with a more narrow opening for lighter, fresher whites and reds, like a Sauvignon Blanc or Beaujolais. The smaller opening focuses and preserves the lighter, fresher aromas.
3. A larger glass for richer reds and whites, like a Malbec or a buttery Chardonnay. The wide rim allows air to interact better with the wine in the glass, so it can open up and evolve.
And once you have drunk from them you’ll never want to go back to anything short, thick, stumpy, recycled or coloured ever again. You’ll have the pleasure of knowing that there’s nothing between you and the wine. That what you’re enjoying now is as good as it gets.
The only thing that’s left is to make sure you wash your glasses properly, and this is where it all gets a bit controversial.
If you can avoid it, do not hand wash nice glassware. That way disaster lies… Trust me, I know.
I once destroyed £60 of handblown Riedel glasses in as many seconds – the first through thermal shock (the hot tap was too hot) and the second by just touching the rim on the tap and watching it “ping” to glass dust in my hand. Gone in 60 seconds. If you are hand washing, keep the hot water as low as possible, keep the glass away from everything and try not to stress the stem by twisting (though, as I mentioned above, there is no join between the bowl and the stem with the Glass & Co glasses.)
DISHING THE DIRT ON DISHWASHERS
If, like us, you use a dishwasher, we have a few simple recommendations to keep your glasses in tip top condition:
1. First, clean your dishwasher. Properly. Every dishwasher has a filter inside that is removable and washable. If you read the manufacturers small print, they advise cleaning after every use (but no one ever does). When it comes to cleaning your glasses, you want as few bits of waste food flying around the inside of the dishwasher as possible. Bits and pieces of debris flying across the hot glass are what cause the thousands of micro scratches that to the naked eye are the white bloom you are trying to avoid at all costs.
2. Only wash glasses with glasses. Any dirty plates, pans or cutlery will just introduce more bits and as we know , we don’t want ANY bits.
3. Pack your glasses carefully so they don’t touch each other. Ignore this one and your lovely glasses with end up with a single and really clear scratch line – etched in like the pint line on a beer glass. Not a good look.
4. Find your dishwasher’s glass setting and use it. This might mean digging out the handbook (you did keep it didn’t you?) or going online and searching for your make and model. Most are available in PDF form from some very helpful websites (if not the manufacturer’s). It should be about 40 degrees and gentle, or have icons to that effect. Do make sure your salt and rinse aid is topped up.
5. When they come out, turn the glasses upside down onto a clean tea towel or some kitchen roll to wipe the rims, and then turn them the right way up so the last of the water can evaporate.
All that’s left to add is a bit of dishwasher advice passed onto me by a man called Terry who makes his (very healthy) living from servicing them. Always – that’s ALWAYS – wash coffee grounds and fruit pips down the sink first. Don’t ever let them anywhere near your dishwasher. These two innocuous everyday items are a dishwasher’s nemesis – they destroy dishwashers (and keep Terry’s kids at a very expensive private school).
Mike Taylor is Park+Bridge’s deputy director of dusting