So what exactly is a vintage wine glass?
For many, the cocktail hour is not about having a cocktail but rather about enjoying a beautiful glass of wine. My inquisitive customers often ask “do you have any vintage wine glasses for sale?” Many are perplexed when I respond by saying that most of my vintage stem glassware was used for serving cocktails as well as wine.
The history of wine making in the U.S. dates back to early colonial times. In the early 1600s, settlers were chartered with many goals, including the goal of making wine. Poor tasting native grapes led to French vines being exported to America for viniculture purposes. Vineyards were soon established in Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. By the turn of the 19th Century, wine making had begun in California. In the 1860s, black rot had destroyed most of the vineyards in the mid-Atlantic region and wine production moved north to the Finger Lakes region of New York. Unfortunately, by the turn of the 20th Century, phylloxera had ravaged many of the vineyards. In addition, the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 destroyed most of that region’s wine being held in storage. Of the vineyards that survived across the U.S., by the early 20th Century, they soon faced Prohibition and the Great Depression. Cheap “jug wine” and highly alcoholic sweet wine became the preferred wines to consume. By the 1940s, the U.S. wine making industry was ravaged. It wasn’t until the 1970s that California was able to develop a system of identifying appellations of origin, which led to better tasting wines in the U.S. and, with it, a renewed interest in drinking wine.
With respect to glassware, during the first half of the 20th Century, America lead the way in manufacturing all types of glasses. Drinking glasses were small in scale as cocktails rarely exceeded 3 ounces. Further, glassware was produced for purely aesthetic purposes, often etched or colored. Cocktails and wine were consumed out of all shapes and styles of glass. Coupes, in particular, were a popular style of glass for drinking wine. By the 1960s, the European based Riedel Company believed most of the glasses on the market were too small to serve wine. Further, they researched the notion that the shape of a glass could affect the wine itself. Based on its findings, in 1973, Riedel launched its Sommelier Series. The new style of glassware featured a bulbous shape stemmed glass. These glasses gained in popularity alongside the renewed interest in drinking wine worldwide. Today, most refer to this shape of glass as a “wine” glass.
While appropriate to drink wine out of a bulbous shape glass, if you are looking to drink wine out of a vintage wine glass, there is no reason for not doing so. We believe home entertaining should reflect your style and your preference, bulbuos shape or not.
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