All Set - glasses

Two forks, three glasses of different sizes and shapes, several knives and two or three utensils which look like surgical implements... For some people, a table set in the French style is as arcane as a voodoo ritual or the rules of the imperfect subjunctive. Although its origins are often logical, as is the case with voodoo rituals (or the imperfect subjunctive), this does not quite explain the enormous pleasure we can derive from learning all about it.

Glasses: form and content

The basic principle is simple: to avoid mixing wines and their flavors or forcing guests to drain their glasses in one gulp in order to change drink, there should be a glass available for each drink served during the meal. A French place setting will have a minimum of two glasses. The wine glass, preferably with a stem, is placed on the right and the larger water glass to the left. Water is drunk to quench the thirst and wine for the pleasure of savoring it in moderation.

Young wines and wines for laying down

Things start to get complicated when more than one wine is served. Red wine is usually served in a larger glass than white wine. This is not with the intention of rationing it, but to allow the red wine to breathe. With red wine, burgundy is traditionally left to breathe in a wide glass, whilst a more restrained bordeaux concentrates its flavors in a tulip-shaped glass. This rule also applies to US vintages, which are predominantly pinot-based (i.e. burgundy) or cabernet-based (i.e. bordeaux)

Certain wines are sometimes served in enormous glasses which are barely filled to the halfway mark in order to maximize the surface area in contact with the air (but this is sometimes just to show off). This kind of treatment is best reserved for young, lively wines, especially in these climes.

When it comes to serving champagne, champagne flutes or tulip-shaped glasses have usurped the champagne saucer for good. The former concentrate flavors by allowing bubbles to rise, while the latter tended to let the drink go flat.

A chill in the air

Chill a wine by immersing the bottle in an ice bucket. This is simple, elegant and effective. It takes just ten minutes approximately to chill champagne or dry white wine and a few minutes to cool a light red wine. It should be borne in mind that room temperature for wine is 18˚ C, which is quite cool for this part of the world!

Finally, because we are in the West Indies, some people enjoy filling a tall glass with ice cubes and drowning them in white wine, champagne or rosé – and why not – but the result, which is diluted with melted ice, is more like a tall drink than an accompaniment for refined food. Here’s a tip: why not flavor your ice cubes with a little verbena, lemon balm or vanilla extract? In a dry white wine this has the instant effect of transporting you to far-flung shores.

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