A Day in the Life of Wine
By: Oleg Cherne
Every wine has a long and eventful life, but there is a particular moment in that life that has a special significance—the moment it is presented and consumed. One aspect, one moment, one day in the life of wine. What we’re talking about here is the presentation of wine inside a glass—the space that gives it a moment of truth. The medium that reveals properties and the qualities of this wonderful drink to us.
The vessel designed for drinking wine has gone through a long process of evolution, not so much in terms of its shape but more with regard to its function—from simply holding wine to catering to different types of the drink. But it still isn’t that simple: in ancient times, wine vessels were believed to be a space where contact occurred with the spirit of Dionysus. This explains one special approach to wine consumption: the mystery ritual. Similarly to the mysteries of medieval times where wine glasses were seen as sources of faith and enlightenment akin to the Holy Grail, a wine glass still determines the status and amount of consumption. It acts as a master, teacher, friend, and judge.
Just imagine, a single glass can unite a multitude of cultures: Minoan, Cretan, Greek, Roman, Etruscan, Thracian, Celtic… And not only cultures—you can meet other sides to yourself in a glass of wine. In a world where people can lose sight of the most important thing—themselves—a wine glass becomes a filling cup, a praising cup, and one of few guides to one’s true self. Of course, this is true for those wines that can offer more than just the effects of alcohol.
The wine glass was developed in many stages, from leather and ceramic vessels, drinking horns and various kinds of goblets made of iron, copper, silver, and gold to the actual glass vessel invented in late 11th-century England and that symbolized the beginning of a new era for wine.
From the 17th century onward, we can speak about the importance of the glass vessel specifically. While the most popular shape initially was a regular glass with a stem, it still allowed people to present wines in a special way, show their opinions of them, and build relationships with them. Over time, glasses evolved from simple glass vessels into actual wine glasses capable of revealing the full spectrum of a wine’s characteristics—its color, flavor, aroma, texture, and even sound. Wine glasses added new aesthetics and opportunities to the drinking ritual, one of which is the ability to appreciate the aroma and color. The wine glass has become not only a yardstick of the quality of wine but also a demanding critic that can expose its faults.
As time went on, the idea of the wine glass arrived at a kind of perfection in its shape, courtesy of the Riedel glassware company. From totemic wine offerings in drinking horns to the space-age wine presentations of the Enosis laboratory in Italy, the wine glass continues to develop and offer new approaches to the art of wine drinking. It sets targets for us, as if demanding a certain ritual, attitude, and, perhaps, development.
When regular corks started being replaced by screw caps in some cases, wine glasses moved to the forefront of wine etiquette and assumed the role of the carrier of a wine’s spirit. Nowadays, it is the wine glass that determines a table setting. The wine follows, and only then comes the food. Imagine a poor sommelier opening a twist-off wine cap and holding a stemless glass! It would be the death of their profession! Today, we can say that if there are no wine glasses, there’s no need for a sommelier.
This essay on the wine glass may have ended here if it wasn’t for an incredible invention from the Enosis lab and its founder, enologist Donato Lanati. They’ve created a marvelous wine glass called the Endolo that helps capture the aroma of wine. It looks like something designed for aliens from Jupiter—as well as us common folk—to dive into the dreams of the aroma that changes the nature of the wine. But you will need a proper wine to do so. Barolo, for instance.
At first glance, it appears as though the Enosis lab is preparing for an official visit from Saturn as Saturn’s rings are what the new wine glass from Enosis and Donato Lanati resembles the most. Endolo is fit for skydivers and zero-gravity astronauts alike—while they might spill a little of the contents, they certainly won’t lose any of the aroma.
And what a true pleasure it is for a sommelier, especially if you need to present the wine in all its glory! It’s a glass for high-quality, mature wine, although Barolo and Pinot Noir do have the upper hand as the most complex wines in revealing their character. The glass is unique because it allows you to extract (that would be the most accurate term) the aromas and flavors of any red wine. The more complex they are, the more you get out of the Endolo.
Mr. Lanati says a wine glass must relate to us, and we in turn must develop an attitude toward it. In addition to incorporating the three important senses of sight, smell, and taste, a wine glass should also provide a tactile experience. It must have a sound.
The art of wine consumption in essence comes down to a fairly simple action—paying attention to the sip. But how can you do that without the right glass? How can you enjoy the aroma if the glass has no stem, or if you’re holding it incorrectly and flaunting the rules of proper contact with the wine? But if you have an Endolo, then
The shining and clear tears of wine,
The shape of the glass and connections inside,
They bear the power of wine and terrain,
All atoms and rules by which they abide.
The strength of the drink in the shape of the glass,
The road to follow and find your true self,
The power of taste and a sign of true class.
The geometry of the glass is crucial—it’s what sends the aroma to your nose and allows you to smell it. The same applies to the shape of the glass that transfers the flavor into your mouth. A sip, a moment. A day you cannot relive.
Now, you dive into the geography of the location, the familiar or unfamiliar taste of the grapes. The connections are not stable, but memory is. Wafts of flower and berry aromas are different every time. And what if it’s the smell of your grandmother’s storage chest or the woolen socks of a 50-year-old Barolo? And the degree of volatility can be affected by the temperature of the room, which can easily dissipate terpenes. And what about Donato Lanati’s favorite molecule—norisoprenoids—that expresses the flavor? A compound with the fruity smell of complex wine…
These compounds accumulate during the maturation process, but then break into smaller compounds as the wine matures. At the beginning of the winemaking process, these compounds bond with sugars that make them aromatically inactive. But when you drink the wine, if it’s mature enough, they get released and transform into the highly concentrated aroma of long-term aging. Those who taste it describe it in very poetic terms, evoking images of docks and ancient ships transporting fruit.
This aromatic substance is the most important molecule in mature and reputable wines like Barolo or Brunello. Imagine having the wrong glass! It would be a tragedy. You open an amazing wine, you put time, effort, and money into it, and you prepare yourself—but the molecule doesn’t reach your senses! Scream and complain to your heart’s content about how broken you are. It’s not going to help. The connections are lost, and the flavor is unclear. The glass is not the right one. And where there is no balance, there is no aroma.
A 1/3-filled wine glass creates a cross-section of flavor where both the wine and the glass have enough room, and the wine’s organoleptic qualities have enough space to develop.
As maestro Lanati puts it: ethers on the top, terpenes on the bottom, and norisoprenoids closer to the surface of the wine.