Well now, with Putin seeking more of Ukraine, and Trump not believing in climate change but very much believing in murderers of journalists, and with Britain trying to leave the EU for reasons it can no longer remember, and with bastards waxing and good buggers waning, and sea level rising and whales stranding and forests burning and post offices closing and little places dying and big places swelling and kids illiterate and lies abounding, my subject for today, as you have no doubt already guessed, is wine glasses.
Some 40 years ago in England a friend's step-father bought a tanker of Australian red wine. By tanker I don't mean a truck. I mean a ship. It had sailed from Australia to Europe full of wine but then the importers went bust. In stepped step-dad. He bought the lot and bottled it and made a killing. His masterstroke was the branding. He called it Kangarouge.
Or so the story goes that I was told and it rings true to me and so I tell it to anyone who'll listen. But my point is that 40 years ago Australian wines were viewed, if viewed at all, as comical. Not so today. Today they boom. I buy them by the dozen myself, or rather by the 36, because if I buy three cases they deliver them for nothing. (I live on a hill and wine is heavy, especially shiraz.)
When I last placed an order the wine company promised me a gift. "We're sending two free glasses," said the woman on the phone.
"Don't," I said. "Call me an over-prepared boy scout but I already have wine glasses, as perhaps you might have guessed from having sold me wine these last 10 years or so. And a wine glass is a wine glass is a wine glass. So keep them, please, or give them to the poor at Christmas."
"I'm sorry sir," she said, "the cases are pre-packed. Your stemless wineglasses are heading your way even as we speak."
I paused a moment, struggling.
"You mean, these glasses have no stems?"
"Oh, well done Sherlock," she didn't say, but boy could I hear her thinking it.
Now, there are moments in this life when one has to stand for what is true and good or else be left lamenting. I breathed in deeply.
"A stemless wineglass," I pronounced in a voice I'd like to think of as mature and wise and rich with 60 years of life-experience, "is not a wine glass. It's a tumbler, a beaker, an infant's sipping cup, a coffee mug, a travesty, an errant thing, a wrongness, a crime against propriety and an abomination unto the lord."
"Was there anything else I can help you with today, sir?"
The glasses came in tissue paper wrapped inside a cardboard tube and they were nice enough to hold and see by simply being glass. There is magic to glass. Light can pass through it but not liquid. So it has uses, of course, in windows and other fripperies, but its first and obvious purpose is to drink wine from. And as the Romans discovered 2000 years ago, a wine glass needs a stem.
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But let it not be said that I have a closed mind, ladies and gentlemen, let it not be said that I wear blinkers. I tried the stemless glass. I tried it for an entire evening. And it isn't without virtues.
It holds wine visibly and it holds enough of it. If one were hot of flesh and slow of thirst, one's fingers might, by being wrapped around the glass, warm up the contents. But I am neither, and besides, at my place I have clever little tables on which to place a glass when not in use.
And therein lies the stemless glass's one advantage over its traditional counterpart. It is stable. With the bulb of fluid in its base it has a low centre of gravity and is hard to inadvertently overturn. Your carpet will thank you for stemless glasses. But your heart will not. And here is why.
A stemless glass is a muted glass. However fine its crystal your fingers act as dampers on vibration. Chink a stemless glass against a stemless glass and there is nothing but a clunk. And if in this life you can't raise a glass of wine and toast another's health with "here's to you and balls to Trump" and hear the glasses ring like church bells on a sunny Sunday morning then what's the bloody point?