A Touch of Glass

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On Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok, there’s a restaurant where they give you an enormous wine glass if you order anything other than the house wine. Honestly, the glasses are absolutely massive. One of them would make a desirable residence for a goldfish. They’re extremely heavy too and I am always scared of dropping one of the wretched things and causing an unseemly commotion.

At a push, you could drink wine out of a plastic mug, but you’d lose most of the aroma and a good deal of the taste. Wine always tastes best out of a well-designed glass. However, they come in a bewildering variety of shapes and sizes.

The “Madison” red wine glass from Ocean. The “Madison” red wine glass from Ocean.

So what’s the ideal glass for everyday wines?  Shape, comfort, size and transparency are the four main issues. Price too, so don’t buy glasses that you can’t afford to break, for break they will, sooner or later. A tulip-shaped glass is best, because it concentrates the aroma near the rim. It should be well-balanced, with a long thin stem which is comfortable to hold. The glass should be very thin, because thick glass feels unpleasant. Go for clear, plain glasses because those frosted or opaque things are useless for wine.

Now I happen to like big ones. And take that smirk off your face, that boy in the back row. Never buy tiny wine glasses. “Neither use nor ornament,” as one of my friends likes to say, apparently quoting his father. You need to swirl the wine around in the glass to release the aroma. A big one enables you to accomplish this without spilling the contents all over the table or worse, over yourself. (And you might detect the voice of experience here.) A capacity of 380-450ml is ideal. If you tend to drink table wines and nothing much else, this type of glass will be fine for all of them. Forget that nonsense about serving white wine in smaller glasses.

Few people in these difficult times will thank me for recommending the expensive glasses made by Schott Zweisel or Riedel. So I won’t. Instead, I will recommend the excellent Thai-made Ocean range which is amazingly good value. I love their 425ml (15oz) “Madison” Red Wine Glass, which is a large elegant glass standing at 224mm (almost 9 inches). I use this glass for most wine tasting. They cost a mere Bt.113 each. You can buy them individually or in boxes of six at Pattaya Kitchen, right next to Foodland. They’re also available at Central, Big C and Makro. If you drink sparkling wine often, Ocean’s tall and elegant “Madison” Champagne Flute is the perfect choice. I always use this for sparklers.

Château Bassac Sauvignon 2009 (white), Bordeaux, France (Foodland Bt. 635)

Sauvignon Blanc has been described by wine writer Karen MacNeill as “the polar opposite of Chardonnay”. Wines from the Sauvignon grape tend to be sharper and more assertive. The name comes from the French sauvage (“wild”) and the wines often carry an aroma of wild herbs and grasses. The grape is traditionally grown in the Loire Valley but in Bordeaux, Sauvignon (SOH-vihn-yohn) is nearly always blended with Sémillon to round out the flavour and create a more elegant and soft-bodied wine.

This one is dry and light, with quite a bit of fruit on the palate; a pleasing mineral taste and some interesting background flavours. There’s a dash of acidity and a satisfying mineral-dry finish. I’d be quite happy to drink this on its own (it’s only 12.5% alcohol) but even so, I think it’s really a “food wine” and would make a good partner to lightly-flavoured chicken or fish dishes.

Serve it quite cold, but give it time for the aromas to develop. The aroma is interesting: delicate and country-fresh, with herbs and grass on the nose. I picked up a faint hint of oranges and dill too. This of course, is why you need to use a decent wine glass. If you drink it out of a tea-cup, you’ll miss the aromas altogether. But I don’t suppose there’s anyone eccentric enough to do that. Or perhaps, this being Pattaya, there is.