The most famed and expensive wine that I have ever tasted, was given to me in a tea cup.
I was the sommelier at a very trendy restaurant frequented by the who’s who in the industry. On this occasion a very well know collector and merchant of fine wine had lunch with 2 friends and they brought with a bottle of Petrus 1999.
Not nearly the most expensive vintage but a Petrus all the same. Towards the end of their meal as I prepared to pour out the last round the host generously offered me a taste before the bottle was polished off. It was mid pour, and the danger of leaving the bottle on the table and dashing to get an appropriate glass could have meant the difference between a sip measly taster and a generous glass. I thus grabbed the nearest clean vessel poured as much as I dared and shared out the rest between the gents.
It was glorious every bit as delicious as I imagined it would be thick porcelain notwithstanding.
I think back to that occasion often and ponder, if it would have been even better in an appropriately shaped, paper thin crystal glass. The inconveniently honest answer is probably no.
If somebody offered even the most uptight of wine snobs a glass of the Screaming Eagle 1992, one of the most expensive and famous wines the world has ever known, in a paper cup, they would drink it and they would probably still love it.
This is not to say that glassware is unimportant, indeed it has been proven that wine can taste different, better even, in different glasses depending on shape and thickness. If a wine is no good though, be it over the hill, flabby faulty or just plain unremarkable no matter what glass you put it in it will never become outstanding. Similarly, if a wine is class its class will shine through, whether in a porcelain tea cup or a crystal glass it will still be amazing.
The lesson to take from this is that, no matter how tempting it may be to be a snob about glassware remember it’s about the wine in the glass and not about the glass around the wine.
Kenyan born Spencer Fondaumiere is an ASI (Association de la Sommellerie Internationale) certified Sommelier, and vice chair of the South African Sommeliers Association.