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Maurice E. Delong

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Ask the experts which wine glass to buy and you’ll get a pretty narrow picture of what’s acceptable. It’s easy to get carried away with wine glasses (as it is with wine) and assume that only a $120 Riedel Sommelier wine glass will do. Other specialty glasses will set you back $20 a glass or more. But in reality there are plenty of options that cost far less, and may even prove more enjoyable in the long run. The essential thing is not to worry about what is “correct” and just make sure the wine glass you choose enhances your enjoyment of wine.

The list of wine glass no-no’s is rather short. Certain materials and designs will interfere with the wine experience. First, never use metal glasses. Metal does not match well with wine, and in the worst case will interfere with its taste. Metal also detracts by hiding the wine from you, and the thinness of the metal can feel unpleasant on the lips.

Some say that etched crystal glasses are totally inappropriate, asserting that the etching detracts from the visual experience. Well, so what! For some it may enhance the appearance; it’s a personal call. However crystal glasses often are thick walled and this can interfere with your enjoyment. If you have delicate crystal glasses, go ahead and enjoy them as long as they meet the other criteria laid out below.

We all have a fond memory or two of an afternoon spent drinking bubbly out of styrofoam cups with a special someone. It is a memory to be cherished always, but not one to the repeated. Plastic with wine is generally a lousy combination, and may even smack of desperation.

Coloured glass is another taboo. Glasses with a full tint — no matter how attractive — totally change the appearance of wine. You won’t see the wine’s colour nor will you see its radiance.

Style, colour and material are important, but the shape of the glass can also have a dramatic impact on wine. The best glasses are tulip shaped with a solid glass stem. The rim should be narrower than the bowl. This helps to help release aromas and funnel them toward your nose. A solid glass stem keeps your hand from warming the wine. The glass should also be large enough to accommodate one serving (about 5 ounces) when filled to its widest point, and the walls thin enough to be comfortable on the lips.

What about glasses with painted decorations? If the glass is otherwise OK, enjoy, as long as the decoration doesn’t obscure your view too much. One of my favourites is a Chablis glass that holds about 14 ounces. It has a lovely art-deco pattern circling the lower part of the bowl. The pattern is barely detectable against a red wine, and is a playful burst of colour when paired with a white wine. Good size, good shape, good thickness, and a visual embellishment that adds to the over-all experience.

What could be better, even if the purists wouldn’t approve?

The Truth About House Wines
According to many wine experts, one should never order the “house” wine at a restaurant. Everyone has an appropriate horror story: it’s the cheapest wine the restaurateur could find; it’s left over from another diner; it’s been warming on the radiator since breakfast.

In certain circumstances avoiding the house wine may be a good idea. The restaurateur may have found too good a bargain. But restaurants usually shop in the same places that you and I do, and generally pay comparable prices. There may be unscrupulous restaurateurs who reserve leftover wine, and some who don’t care enough to keep the house wine in good condition or to dump it when it’s past its prime. But, thankfully, these are rare.

In fact, the house wine can be one of the best indicators of how much a restaurant cares. It’s the quickest way to find out what kind of quality and attention go into the restaurant’s “cellar”. Often the better restaurants are proud of their house selections and may announce them along with the evening’s specials. The wines may even have been brought in specially to complement the featured dishes.

On the other hand, there is the “House Red / House White” syndrome. This restaurant serves wine because it has to, not because it wants to. The staff may not even know the origin of the wines. They may be perfectly all right, but they could just as easily be a big disappointment.

So order the house wine. If they’ve gone out of their way to offer up something nice–and at a decent price — then there’s a good chance they care about wine in general, and you’ll have a better chance of choosing a good bottle from their list. No doubt they will also have a wine person available who can help you with your selection.

And if the house wine is dreary, then make do with one glass and save your money for a restaurant that cares about wine as much as you do.

10) Wine is Interesting: There are more than a million wines on the market today, and every one of them is different. There are thousands of wines available locally and at reasonable prices, which makes sampling and enjoying wines a fascinating hobby.

9) Wine is Educational: An interest in wine is an opportunity to learn not only about the wine, but about it’s creation, its history, the geography of where it’s from — even culture and language. If you drink a lot of Italian wines, you’ll need to learn at least enough Italian to read the labels.

8) Wine is Stimulating: Wine is a good icebreaker at any social gathering, and for generations it has been the impetus for countless philosophical discussions.

7) Wine is Social: Imagine a dinner party without wine! And what better way is there to thank a host for the invitation than to take along a well-chosen bottle?

6) Wine is Festive: A sparkling wine is de rigeur at celebrations. But even a simple meal at a favourite restaurant becomes an occasion when you hear that unmistakable “pop” when your server uncorks your bottle.

5) Wine is for Sharing: Aside from the usual proscription against drinking alone, a bottle of wine is always better when shared with a friend.

4) Wine is Patriotic: Buy Canadian! We make great wines, as a visit to any Canadian winery will show. Just look for the display case filled with wine awards from around the globe.

3) Wine is for Food: Wine has been touted as a digestive aid for thousands of years, but it is also a natural partner at the dinner table. Plus matching wine with food can be an endless source of entertainment.

2) Wine is Good for You: Imagine the impact if we discovered a drug that could lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lessen the likelihood or impact of a stroke. What about a food supplement that can lower the risk of heart disease, heart attack, Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes in men, and osteoporosis in women? These are some of the known benefits of moderate wine consumption.

1) Wine is for Lovers!!!