It's flowering in Napa vineyards.

It's flowering in Napa vineyards.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

When a tumbler is the perfect glass

“You are kidding me, aren’t you?” my wife said as she stared incredulously at the glass that I was using to drink my red wine. It was a thick lipped, old world-like tumbler that I occasionally use for drinking water and fruit juices. “You of all people!” she added for additional taunt. “We’ve got nice crystal stemware, and you’re drinking from that . . . that thing?”

Sure enough, that’s what I was doing. It was dinnertime and I was sipping wine from a stubby, little glass that was built to survive the worst that even the Terminator could inflict.

Actually, the glass seems ideal for sipping Pastis, that milky white (when water is added), anise flavored liquor that the French call the “milk of Provence.” In his best selling book, Toujours Provence, Peter Mayle asserts that to enjoy Pastis, ambiance is the key ingredient, “which dictates how and where it should be drunk.”

He says that it can’t be drunk in a hurry. It can’t be drunk in New York or England or “anywhere that requires its customers to wear socks. It wouldn’t taste the same. It has to be in Provence.” And although he doesn’t mention it, I suspect “the right glass” is also one of the vital components; namely, a tumbler. Having vacationed in Provence a few times, Pastis was always served to me in a tumbler.

Similarly, my wife requires a specific cup and saucer in order to properly enjoy her breakfast caffeine boost. It has to be thin-rimmed and of delicate construction. She claims the coffee is not as enjoyable and tastes completely different in anything else but fine china. Of course, I suspect the morning ambiance is given a substantial boost when she’s stirred and gently awakened by the enticing aromas of percolating Columbian Supremo that wafts into the bedroom, courtesy of you know who.

Also, if you’re into super-premium wines, then you might also be into Riedel wine glasses from Austria. If not, be advised that they have produced a highly successful line of connoisseur wine stemware that are specifically designed to deliver the heights of drinking pleasure for each of the most popular red and white varietals. That’s right, one individual and distinct shape for each grape varietal. Ambience, it appears, can at times make special demands of us.

But “peasant food," as I refer to it, was one of the key players in our dinnertime ambiance: leftover stew recently discovered lurking behind several Tupperwares in the corner of our freezer. Also, we had a half empty bottle of so-so Pinot Noir sulking quietly in the door of our Sub-Zero.

The stew and the wine were destined for the other. It was the perfect, elemental match of two underachievers, who would come together to deliver their last best shot. And, as such, the moment demanded something without the breeding of a Riedel, or the anonymous reliability of our daily drinker stemware. No, it required the perfect participant. That ordinary, undistinguished, squat little tumbler.

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