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CRYSTAL CLEAR

A GUIDE TO GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR GLASSWARE

 

Over the last three-and-a-half millennia since glass was first invented, glassware has evolved from clunky, murky receptacles into clear, ultra-refined crystal. But why the need for this level of craftsmanship? At some point, something must have prompted us to look at a clay bowl or goblet (if we were being really fancy) and decide we can do better. Whether it be wine, brandy, cocktails or water, perhaps that something was nothing more than the allure and pleasure of a fine beverage. Our perception of taste is, after all, an art.

JAN | Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen | CRYSTAL CLEAR

Wine glass with scenes relating to marriage and fertility, anonymous, c. 1725- c. 1750.
Translation of inscription: ‘Not to be broken.’

SHAPE

A thinner glass concentrates a drink’s aromas. When drinking from it, the liquid is directed to the back of the mouth, which may emphasise the drink’s acidic and bitter qualities. A wide glass opens the drink up to the elements, developing its aromas. When drinking from a wider glass, the head tips down, directing the liquid to the tip of the tongue where sweet and salty flavours might become more apparent.

MATERIAL

When a glass is forged, three elements are fused together, namely silica (crystals), soda (dissolving), and lime (fortifying), which is similar to making a caramel at home from sugar (crystals) and water (dissolving).

TRANSPARENCY

Any wine lover will know that so much of the pleasure of drinking a wine depends on the colour, clarity, texture (particles), vibrancy and level of alcohol in the wine — all of which are gauged by looking at the wine through a crystal-clear glass.

(Right) Wine glass with the inscription ‘Fatherland, Peace and Liberty’, anonymous, c. 1795. The depiction alludes to the alliance that the Batavian Republic and the French Republic entered into in 1795.

JAN | Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen | CRYSTAL CLEAR
JAN | Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen | CRYSTAL CLEAR

WEIGHT

When a wine glass feels heavy in our hands, we tend to take the wine less seriously… A “drinking” wine, our preconceptions might whisper in our ear. A lighter, thin glass — with a fragile feel — will invariably evoke a sense of elegance and refinement.

THICKNESS

The design of a glass is very often determined by how close you want to be to your beverage. The thinner the edge of the glass, the more you control how much contact there is between the liquid and your lips, and the better you can detect the texture of your beverage. When glugging down a soda, a plastic bottle will often do, but a fine wine demands a more dignified approach.

(Left) Wine glass with a cockerel mating with a chicken, anonymous, c. 1725 – c.1750.
Translation of inscription: ‘May it always be so.’

Adapted from the book Let’s Eat France (François-Regis Gaudry & Friends)
THIS GUIDE TO GLASSWARE FIRST APPEARED IN JAN THE JOURNAL VOLUME 4

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