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Jake Bennett-Day, co-owner of Vino Gusto, in Bury St Edmunds has strong opinions on glassware used in restaurants





I’ve resisted the urge to write about glassware for some time. If you, valued reader, have enjoyed balanced, considerate wine writing over the past few months, then I am sorry to let you down on this occasion. I have thoughts on glassware. Thoughts you may consider irrational in the grand scheme of life’s more important troubles.

It is utterly mindboggling to me that the Parisian goblet, or bistro glass, still exists to be what many see as an acceptable drinking receptacle. Throw it in the bin. Their existence is owed to a close relation; the ISO (International Organisation for Standardization) wine tasting glass. These mean-sized, clunky drinking vessels are an abomination, seemingly designed to prevent full appreciation of the nectar contained within, leaving you with a ‘glass half empty’ feeling.

A good wine glass has a few very simple properties and needn’t be expensive. My kitchen glass cupboard is testament to the various glass shape trends that have been in and out of vogue for the last decade, but they all have a few important factors in common:

You should be able to get your nose in the glass without it getting wet. It need not be too big, but absolutely should not be too small. It should have a stem and the bowl of the glass should be wider than the opening at the top. All of these requirements will allow you to perfect a very debonair, suave swirl, bringing to life the otherwise trapped aromatic nuances that the sommelier keeps trying to convince you of, justifying your decision to go for the posh plonk. Bonus points too for thin, elegant glassware, but it needn’t be mouth-blown by a Slovenian monk for you to notice the difference that great machine-made glassware will give you.

Of course, drinking context is very important. There are certainly examples of situations requiring of basic glassware. You’re unlikely to find me pulling out my Riedel Vinum’s at the beach. More likely you’ll see my trusty Govino’s – quality, reusable plastic, stemless wine glasses. Equally, a backstreet trattoria serving a plate of pasta and carafe of surprisingly acceptable anonymous glug upon red and white checkered tablecloth for €12 can justifiably and authentically get away with the rustic tumbler. In this instance, wine is a beverage. It is fuel and lubrication – it needn’t be celebrated as high art in isolation and grubby, garlic-covered fingers are encouraged.

What does drive me insane, however, is the use of sub-par glassware in a posh restaurants’ never-ending quest for casualisation. I’m all for enjoying great food and wine casually, but the obstructive, ironic use of non-suitable glassware in the form of the bistro glass is just plain wrong. There are very few that get away with it, but generally those that do have decades of gastronomic and cultural authenticity backing up their decision not to fix what ain’t broke. Fine, I’ll surrender to the romanticism in this particular instance.

Generally, the bottle of wine I select in such an establishment is going to add to the noticeable dent in my bank balance once Garćon brings the bill. As a result, I want to enjoy the bottle to its maximum potential. I want to swirl vigorously without sloshing the glass over my unsuspecting dining companions. I want to inhale so deeply that my wife mistakes my enthusiasm for an asthma attack. I want to gargle so obnoxiously that the table next door request to move seats. I feel robbed of this pleasure by being served measly, wide-lipped, grim little goblets.

I don’t subscribe to the idea that each style, grape variety, or colour of wine deserves its own glass shape. I’m sure there is science to suggest otherwise, or at least, Riedel (outstanding glass manufacturers of hundreds of different varieties) will certainly tell you there is. As long as the fundamental properties of the glass match my specification, listed earlier on, I’m happy to drink red, white and sparkling from the same glass. In fact my ‘perfect’ glass is called ‘The Wine Glass’, produced by Richard Brendon in collaboration with wine writer Jancis Robinson, OBE, MW. Named simply as it is the ‘single one glass you will need to enjoy every wine at its best, including sparkling wine, port, sherry and sweet wine’. The downside is price point – but in fairness, these are actually individually mouth-blown in Slovenia. You can buy similarly styled glassware from Ikea or indeed Sainsbury’s homeware section that will do the job 80 per cent as well.

So, if you’re looking to get maximum satisfaction out of your glass of wine, consider the glass itself. Drinking wine from a goblet is the vinous equivalent of eating soup with a fork. The experience is less than enjoyable, with a very simple solution. If you prefer your soup from a spoon, you will prefer your wine from a grown-up’s glass – settle for nothing less.

Jake Bennett-Day is co-owner and director of Vino Gusto wine shop, 27 Hatter Street, Bury St Edmunds

Visit www.vinogusto.co.uk

Call 01284 771831