'Quite a few folk regard a $150 cut-crystal glass as a less desirable vessel for wine than a thinner glass you could pick up for a fraction of the price.'
'Quite a few folk regard a $150 cut-crystal glass as a less desirable vessel for wine than a thinner glass you could pick up for a fraction of the price.' Photo: Penny Bradfield

Cathy Gowdie

I have a lovely collection of Waterford and Stuart cut crystal, and always serve wine in these glasses when guests come to dinner. My son did a wine tasting course recently and says ''plainer'' glasses are better for wine. Is he right?

I know and love people who - like you - take pride in setting a sumptuous table with pressed damask, polished silver and half a dozen cut-crystal glasses for every guest - different wines for every course, different glasses. Given the absence of Downton Abbey-style domestic servants from most of our lives, I'm conscious that it's a tremendous act of hospitality to wash and dry all that by hand - it's not as if you can shove Stuart crystal in the dishwasher without wrecking it. So I am reluctant to tell you that your son is not alone in his preference for a ''plainer'' glass, but here goes: quite a few folk regard a $150 cut-crystal glass as a less desirable vessel for wine than a thinner glass you could pick up for a fraction of the price. Admittedly, some are fetishists fixated with the various pricey ''stems'' produced by a well-known Austrian company. But many are delighted to drink from a less-glamorous glass.

The thing is, a lot of people who are truly obsessed by wine like to get close to it. Many wine tragics find faceted glass or crystal a bit distracting - it makes it harder to observe the wine's colour or bead. But the main issue is tactile. Hard-core wine lovers like their glasses thin, with rims so fine they're barely noticeable on the lips and tongue.

None of that means you should not set your table with whatever you fancy. If your son has a problem, he can eat in the kitchen with a glass of his choice. If there's a TV in there, leave him a DVD episode of Upstairs Downstairs for company. With luck he'll get a feel for the below-stairs thing and hang around to polish the silver.