Every now and then, I receive the question of what kind of glasses are always in the background of my pictures. The wine glass question is often asked, not to me specifically, but in general. The variety of different glasses is overwhelming, and there is plenty of space on the scale between plastic champagne flutes and mouth-blown Burgundy goldfish bowls. There is a general consensus in the wine world that the same sip of wine tastes different in different glasses. Far less agreement exists on which glass to use though. Whether one glass is sufficient, whether Burgundy always has to go into a Burgundy glass, whether sparkling wine is much better showcased in large glasses, and if so, which sparkling wine in which glass – these questions lead to an endless discussion that aligns well with the truly endless selection of wine glasses, some at eye-watering prices. If someone poses the glass question in any social media, they can be certain that their choice will be deemed wrong, and the discussion around it will be extensive. To explain why I drink from the glass that is usually in the background, I first need to digress.
I would now consider myself partially a wine nerd. However, there is much more nerd than wine in me, literally and figuratively. Part of this situation is that video games are part of my pop-cultural bubble. If you’re completely out of that loop, you might need to brace yourself and perhaps read the next sentences a bit faster. But stick with me; the curve leads back to the wine glass. Prominent in the video game cosmos in recent years is the Souls series, which has carved out its own niche. The games are extremely challenging but (almost) never unfair, so that the player, i.e., me, always knows why they are lying in the grass after the 16th attempt at a boss fight and can hopefully conquer it better on the 17th try. This works well in the human versus game dynamic, but it works just as well when suddenly appearing in someone else’s game to throw lightning bolts at each other’s heads. This fact has actually led to a lively community. In that community, there is a discussion very similar to the wine glass debate. There is the player type MinMax – everything is perfected to the last point, and if wearing a leather hat and plate glove looks terrible but squeezes out the last three points of resistance, then that’s taken, no matter how it looks. And then there is the Fashion Souls type. If the rusty short sword looks especially good with the armor, works okay but loses ten percent damage compared to the MinMax version, then it doesn’t matter. Because it looks good, feels right, and that’s ultimately more important.
The glass in the background is Fashion Souls. It works okay, even well, I would say. But that’s not why it’s there. It’s there because I personally think it looks good, and that’s why I like to drink from it. The glass, a Zwiesel Sensa, is machine-made, not overly rustic, but certainly not the finest. Of course, there are other glasses that I like. That’s why there are more boxes of wine glasses lying around here than can fit in our cabinet. But somehow, we always end up with the Sensa. The drinking experience from Josephinenhütte, Zalto, and others is, of course, better. But for me, the curve in Josephinenhütte is like leather hats and plate gloves. And, in any case, with all these glasses, there’s always the fear of producing expensive glass breakage. For me, that’s stressful. And I deliberately write for me quite often. It’s established that different people perceive taste very differently, and I’m sure the same goes for the drinking experience from glasses. What works for me may not work for you. As we’ll see shortly, it doesn’t even work across the table. So drink from what you like. Accept that other people like different glasses and occasionally try something new. Just like with wine.
And with that, we’ve arrived at the wine. To still provide wine content here, we grabbed all the glasses lying around and put the same wine in five glasses. Before we get to that, a word about the glasses: all the glasses are put into the dishwasher around here; I don’t polish because I’m lazy, I aerate with a generous sip, and I live with a slight haze. Could the cover photo be more beautiful if the glasses were polished? Sure, but I don’t care. I also bought all the glasses somewhere on sale or clearance. The cheapest ones are actually the ones I prefer to use. The Zwiesel Sensa cost me 3.50 euros per glass. I paid the most per glass for Spiegelau Definition Burgundy, which was 12 euros per glass. The others that are coming up are somewhere in between. I’m aware that not a single mouth-blown glass is included. Despite occasional contact with Josephinenhütte and others, I haven’t felt the urge to buy any.
Also very important: This is not a glass test. But I didn’t want to write about wine glasses without wine. And I do hope for some insight for myself of course. And because two glasses are specifically labeled as Burgundy glasses, we have Pinot Noir from Hochstadt by Lukas Hammelmann. Vintage 2018. We start with our well-known Zwiesel Sensa Fruity and Delicate and then drink from the smallest glass to the largest glass.
The wine has a really beautiful cherry fruit, a lot of freshness, but also a bit of forest floor and earth. The fruit is somewhere between cherry candy and fresh cherries but practically without sugar. This is really extremely nice, and I’m slightly sad that the wine, given the many glasses, will only survive one evening. It’s a bit matured, has spice, some chocolate biscuit, and a few herbal notes. It’s super elegant when drinking, fine, fresh, and in complete harmony. There’s a very fine tannin on the tongue, giving structure way at the back.
In the Gabriel Glass Standard, there’s more forest on the nose, more herbs, more forest floor. The cherry is, of course, there, but more in the background. There’s more tannin when drinking, more focused but also less harmonious.
The Spiegelau Definition Universal offers the least in terms of an entry point in the nose. The wine is fine and balanced between fruit and earth but somehow just a bit distant. In direct comparison with the other glasses, there’s the least happening there. However, the drinking sensation is quite fantastic.
The Stölzle Quatrophil Burgundy feels the heaviest. The glass, not the wine. The wine is very spicy on the nose, the fruit further back than in the Gabriel. Also, the wine seems somehow more mature than in the other glasses. Quite noticeably, actually. It’s creamier, and there’s more mushroom-earthy forest floor. However, it’s intense and very balanced in the mouth.
Finally, the Spiegelau Definition Burgundy. There’s more fruit, which feels warmer, softer, and more mature. The wine is similarly open as in the Quatrophil but doesn’t give this impression of maturity. The fruit here is distinctly sour cherry and the least candy-like. The balance is perfect, and forest floor, herbs, and fruit are in equilibrium. It must be said that such a thin goldfish bowl on a stem looks quite impressive once you’ve overcome the fear of glass breakage.
Now the discussion starts at our table about which of these is good. We both think the Spiegelau Universal glass is the weakest. Something is missing in the wine, so it takes fifth place. But then it gets complicated, and we can’t agree. So, individual rankings. I have the Quatrophil in fourth place because it actually smells too mature to me and therefore doesn’t appeal to me as much. However, from across the table, there is loud disagreement. Then, for me, very closely, comes the Gabriel glass in third, and then the Sensa in second because I slightly prefer the openness of the Sensa. And in first place is the Burgundy glass from Spiegelau. Somehow funny that this Burgundy glass actually performs the best considering we trink Pinot.
The better half agrees with first place. Then, for her, it’s already the Quatrophil, which was second to last for me. Because she finds the maturity that puts me off to be fantastic. Following that is the Gabriel in third and the Sensa in fourth. But between these two, it’s also super close for her, and depending on the sip, the two occasionally swap places. Very interesting.
And what do we do with this knowledge now? Of course, continue drinking from the Sensa and, when we feel like it, put a different glass on the table. As we see fit. Anyone who responds to Khruangbin not with “bless you” but by turning on the music, might have seen the video (relevant part from minute 18) in which Laura Lee, who plays bass in Khruangbin, explains that because of the ring on her finger, she might play 20 percent worse but looks 40 percent better. For me, it’s a bit like that with these glasses. And that’s okay.