I have a set of four Mikasa balloon wine glasses, or leaded crystal “goblets,” given to me by a friend who felt sorry for my collection of sweet relish jars. The difference was immediate. I would have noticed even if I’d previously had top of the line, elegant, match-your-grape-and-your-glass relics from some temple of hedonism (there are several companies that produce such wine glasses). Those are good — very good. I’ve talked about them before, as part of an article about the physics of whiskey glasses. But these are better. They just are.
“In the beginning was the jar.”
Mikasa balloon wine glasses, 9-inches tall, 4 1/2 inches across, slender-stemmed and thin-lipped but comfortable, will probably increase your enjoyment and your awareness of the remarkable gift that wine represents, by 100%. You may rue the years you heedlessly discarded more than half of your pleasure of drinking wine. Remember when you presumed that this whole thing about the shape of the glass making a difference was just precious belles-lettres bullshit, created by fops and fools to impress or seduce each other?
It wasn’t. It is true. Riedel was right. In the beginning was the wineskin, or the cup; and then in the era of glass, the jar. You’ve cheated yourself. Mikasa-style goblets will address this problem.
The revolution: when we discovered aesthetics
Venice used to be the seat of the glassblowing universe and Venice was — even back in the late 14th/early 15th century — about aesthetics and trade. Perfect. But it took almost a half-millennium before we could explain why we wanted different glasses for a delicate white and a bold red. But I think it has gone too far. Every grape and every vineyard MIGHT deserve its own unique glass shape for maximum appreciation, and maybe it’s only my unevolved and undisciplined gonzo mind that makes me balk. I question whether anyone, with the current state of science, advanced as it might be, can actually make all those matches with accuracy. So, back to Mikasa-style goblets which feel generous and sumptuous without any loss of elegance.
Minuses: almost none
In the interest of full disclosure, here are the downsides of Mikasa balloon wine glasses: 1) these are a bitch to wash. You don’t put them in the automatic dishwasher, and manipulating a soapy, fragile, long-stemmed leaded-crystal work of art du verre while washing it, is an invitation to knock it into something else or dropping it. It is a miracle that after a decade of ownership I still have all four. And 2) you should buy at least two sets so that you can entertain more than two refined guests — and you will be less paranoid about breaking one. But baby steps. Start with one set of four if you must. You will not regret it. For two sets, that’s $80 instead of the $39.95. Still not bad at all.