Winebbling with a Dilettante


This post is on how to be an asshole about the glass you’re drinking out of even when you don’t quite yet know how to be an asshole about what is in it. 

There must have been a moment where you were in that ever-so-awkward position at your rich friend’s house when they asked you to grab wine glasses down from their shelf–inadvertently forcing you to choose between a few varieties. Hence, exposing the fact that you have absolutely no idea what the hell you are doing. Yeah. I haven’t had that moment either. Most likely because my friends are still drinking wine out of game-day cups and stolen beer pints–much like myself on non-dishwashing days.

But, one day my fellow thirty-pressers–we will have it. And we need to know what to put that delectable under $20 wine in. At the very least, to prevent ourselves from being cast down as beastly commoners whilst in the presence of dignified wine deities (also secretly known by us mortals as the pompous assholes of wine finery).

So what gives about this wine glass stuff? Evidently, wine glasses weren’t always glass. The Romans drank out of clay, silver, and even (poisonous?) lead cups. Then, around 50 BC, ancient alcoholics had to be careful of splinters in their mouths, as their cups were made of wood.

Fast-forward a bit to the middle ages and they still hadn’t gotten to glass. Just these things called piggins, made out of leather. In fact, this cup is the namesake of the expression “pig-drunk.” Who would have ever thought that Thursday night sorority girl behavior actually derived from a bunch of rowdy Middle English trash talking heathens? Interesting.

Eventually–in the 14th century–Venetians started getting extra-fancy pants and decided to make some glasses. However, the shit was so expensive that basically no normal human could afford it! So regular old people stuck to their piggns, leather, and horns. Quite similar to the way we use coffee cups for wine when we run out of our six-pack of IKEA glasses today. See iPhone photo posted above.

At first, these wine glasses were really too heavy. Then, they were made to match furniture in the dining room around the 1800s. Some other shenanigans went on in wine glass evolution–up until Riedel started bullying the other glassmakers and forcefully creating an evil monopoly over the whole wine glass situation today. Not really. But they did (rightfully) take over.

By the way, Riedel is pronounced like the word “needle.” You’re welcome for saving your ass when you try to impress someone with this stuff later on. Anyway, Riedel is also an Austrian thing, even though it started in Bohemia around the mid-1700s.  And the fact that they are Austrian is not to be confused with their German-originated name. They get pissy about that–at least, I assume that they would.

Apparently, Riedel is also in cahoots with Robert Parker (remember him?) who said: “The finest glasses for both technical and hedonistic purposes are those made by Riedel. The effect of these glasses on fine wine is profound. I cannot emphasize enough what a difference they make.” Ah, how his beautiful pretensions floweth over. Disclaimer Two: Opinions expressed in these post are for sheer sardonic effect and are not completely reflective of the novice-writer/wine drinker who has never actually met Robert Parker in her life, ever. He is probably a really nice guy. Maybe.

Despite his nauseating word-choice, however, Mr. Parker creates a clear pathway to my next point: wine glasses do make a difference. And, there is an actual problem in carrying over our old collegiate tradition of plastic Tervis tumblers filled to the brim with 2 buck chuck. Must we really grow up? Yes, my darlings. We must. Because, apparently, the difference cannot be emphasized enough.

For starters. Wine can’t just hang out in our hands encased in plastic. For the most pretentious of wine connoisseurs, there is a firm belief that grimy little paws will destroy and devastate the perfect tasting temperature. And for those painfully self-aware, a person correctly holding a wine glass (by the stem, kids) just looks way more glamorous. All of this is to say that wine glasses are almost as important to wine culture as the wine is itself. Almost.

Here’s the run down. Serious wine-drinkers can open up a whole tool-kit of glass types. But, for us snoobies, we will stick to the basics: Red and White–oh, shocker of the vintage.

Red wine glasses are going to be fat on the bottom and skinny up top. White wine glasses are skinny all the time. Everywhere, everyday, no matter what. Why? Well, because we want to be able to let out the smell (or aroma as the critics might say) of delicious dirty red wine and keep the good aromas in the white wine.

With the wide bowl and narrow rim of a red wine glass, the wine is allowed to do something called oxygenate. Oxygenating wine is an entirely different post for a later life.  But, this essentially means let that taste-genie out of the red wine bottle–according to this LA Times article.  On the other side of things, the narrower bowl and rim of the white wine glass helps keep in the taste and smell of the white wine, which can escape easily–that jail-bird.

The bottom lines, kids:

1. Air = good for red = let ’em loose.
2. Air = not really all that great for white = lock ‘em up.
3. Red wine = fat-bottomed bowl and narrow rim.
4. White wine = narrow-bottomed bowl and narrow rim.
5. Too much wine = fat-bottomed humans that make the rockin’ world go round.
6. Hold the stem (that’s the long stick thing under the wine holding part) and drink from the right glass for Robert Parker’s sake. Cheers, dears!




  1. sonomaist

    Actually, not to be pretentious, but I have found that glass choice does make a difference, which isn’t to say you need to bust out the Riedel Sommelier series for every Tuesday night throw down. But try this experiment sometime. Take a wine you like, maybe one you have some familiarity with and try it in a typical “tasting glass” (your average relatively slim bowled glass that a wine by the glass at the average restaurant would give you.) Then try it in a wider bowled wine glass, even throw in a tumbler if you like. For me, the wider bowl will win every time. As for whites in skinnies, there’s a glass called a Mersault glass that is made for whites with a big fat bowl that I absolutely adore (it was actually one of my top wine gift suggestions in my holiday blog post, I love that glass so much) almost all wines get better with some air on ’em, even whites! Keep drinking and exploring! Cheers! Sonomaist

    • winebbler

      Pretentious would be fueled by an upturned nose, wave of the hand, and a back turned towards the snoobies picking out the cutest labels in the Trader Joe aisle. Pretension is not belonging to those sharing their wealth of knowledge. This is exactly what I wanted. C’est parfait! You’re so kind! Us baby-beginners yearn for inklings of this type of guidance. Thank you for your thoughtful clarification and advice. I will definitely do a little wine-glass adventuring, soon! Where can I find a Mersault glass? I really like your blog and am looking forward to learning more from you! Best, C. xx

  2. Tricia Traugott

    First time I’ve read your blog and got a kick out of it! Funny thing about wine glasses, I think they need to be big enough to stick your nose into it! I personally think wine glasses should be classified by a) the size and shape of your nose and b) sensory ability eg. no sense of smell-big open bowl with wide rim, good sense- narrower rim!
    Look forward to reading more of your posts!

  3. jitendravaswani

    I found funny wine glass here. You are hilarious , I liked your blog pretty much, it was fun reading your blog, keep on posting more about these posts like these. I have been forced many times at my friend house to have wine . I am not being pretenttious.

  4. springding

    Thanks for following my blog. After reading your posts i would like to say how well your doing in breaking down wine’s barriers. In Malaysia, the people take the Chinese approach of using wine as a status symbol and not just as a drink, which makes you drunk!!! Its all about having fun and you triumph that through your writing!

  5. artworkworld

    Check out Schott Zwiesel glasses if you get a chance. They have a batch that look & feel like Riedel, but have titanium in them. So you can safely run them in the dishwasher & an enthusiastic “cheers!” doesn’t result in glass spraying everywhere.

  6. Anna Scott Graham

    I know squat about wine, but this was an excellent primer on so many levels. And quite charmingly hilarious to boot!

    Riedel; I will always be thankful to you for pronouncing his name correctly. 🙂 And thanks for following my blog!

  7. Jennifer Szescula Flanagan

    I will admit this *gasp* I don’t like wine (or beer, or most alcohol, or coffee or tea) which makes me a total ignoramus to most of the adult population. But I do know that it is important for food (which I do love and spend lots of time, reading about, cooking and eating) so I try not to be a complete idiot. This was great not only for the information. Love your style of writing, excited to read more from you.

  8. NikeChillemi

    I’m no wine expert and have few pretensions about the stuff. I drink both my white and red wines in a wide bottomed glass. I’ll also drink brandy in the same glass. Why? Becuase I like the glass. I like the look of it and the feel of it. I enjoy everything about it.

  9. wineandwilddogs

    Reblogged this on wineandwilddogs and commented:
    hmmmmmmmmmmmm, and what about when you go camping with a lovely bottle of Painted Wolf red , only to realise in the middle of now-where that you forgot the picnic basket with the fat-bottomed glasses- bottoms up and drink straight out of the bottle!

  10. mramgemini6

    Hi. I’m not a wine person, but your post is very good and informative. I just learned quite a bit about wine and wine glasses and wine snobs. I happen to be a hard liquor man, focusing on whisky (or whiskey, depending on where the stuff comes from) in the past few months. In the realm of hard liquor drinkers, there are also the snobs. I don’t know why people get snooty with alcohol — as far as I’m concerned, it’s all about the person’s taste. One bonus to us who like to drink: we can use the empty bottles to beat the hell out of snobs!

  11. Kim 24/7 in France

    Thanks for such an amusing, informative post and for visiting my blog. I drink wine any day, every day (it is good for one’s health after all!) and agree that the appropriate glass is well…appropriate – not to mention how to swirl, sniff, and taste test – oh, la, la!

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