Q&A with glassware designer Richard Brendon - COMPETITION

To enter our competition in partnership with Richard Brendon & La Fromagerie to win an al fresco hamper including a magnum of Pol Roger Champagne Brut Réserve, six Jancis wine glasses and the perfect cheese pairing - click here.

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They say that the first bite of any meal is with the eye, and the same applies to wine. Many of us choose a wine when a unique and interested bottle shape catches our eye - but it's in the glass that wine truly comes into its own.

With this in mind and to celebrate our partnership, we thought it would be interesting to gain some insight from somebody that creates unique and fascinating vessels. Richard Brendon has been creating crystal glassware since 2013, and was kind enough to take a little time from his day to answer our questions. Here's what Richard had to say.

Hi, Richard. Let's start at the beginning. What is it about glassware that initially piqued your interest?

My interest of beautiful glassware most definitely came about whilst I was living near Portobello Road in London. For those who are familiar, you probably already know that Portobello Road is one of the world’s most famous antique markets, and in particular is known for its vintage glassware. 

The array of glassware is just extraordinary; it became a real joy of mine to hand pick unique pieces to bring home and then bring out for cocktail hour! It wasn’t too long afterwards that I decided I wanted to create my own crystal collections. I was keen to take all of the best design elements of classic glassware and update them for a contemporary setting. Not only this, but I was adamant that the crystal needed to be mouth-blown using traditional techniques, in order to really showcase the incredible craftmanship that has been passed down through generations. Words can’t do the extraordinary skill of our craftspeople justice! 

Can you share any tricks and challenges of the trade that consumers may not be aware of when it comes to crafting and creating glassware?

Once you think you’ve nailed the perfect design, you’ve probably still got several more rounds to go! Jancis and I worked through countless prototypes to make sure that the glass was exactly what we wanted. Making a glass that is perfect for all wines is a big (and admittedly ambitious) claim, so we needed to make sure that it did just that, which is why every millimetre of crystal has been meticulously considered. 

You typically use crystal in your production techniques - does this provide any additional qualities to the finished glassware, beyond the obvious striking aesthetics?

Yes, absolutely! Crystal contains additional minerals that strengthen the glass, which means the glass can be both gossamer thin and durable (making them dishwasher safe). Our Jancis glasses are also lead free which makes them resistant to clouding.

Knowing what you do, can you only bring yourself to drink wine from particular glasses in order to maximise the taste experience?

Of course, I love drinking from our Jancis glasses and I genuinely do believe it brings out the best in a wine, however I think I would (rightly so) attract a few odd glances if I carried around my glass with me everywhere!

You create glasses especially designed to minimise space between wine and palate. Was this decision born of frustration from drinking vessels failing to consider the delicacy of fine wines?

Great question! The aim of the Jancis glass was to maximise the tasting experience of all wines. One of the first ways to do this is to create as thin a rim as we possibly could; obviously the less crystal between your mouth and the wine, the more you are going to be able to taste even the most delicate of nuances. You could certainly argue that drinking wine from a thick-rimmed glass is doing a fine wine a disservice!

You create a range of specialist decanters, crafted especially for younger or more mature wines. How does a decanter of varying shapes and sizes change the taste of the wine inside?

Historically, the main reason you would decant a bottle of wine is to separate the sediment and avoid having mouthfuls of deposit in your glass but experience shows that it is usually young wines that benefit most, as the oxygen they contain hasn't had very long to take effect. With this in mind, aerating a young wine in a large decanter can sometimes give an illusion of more maturity.

There are actually two distinct shapes that are typically used for old and young wines. Mature wines should really go into decanters with minimal headspace to ensure it's not exposed to too much harmful oxygen. Our bottle-shaped Mature Wine Decanter from allows you to decant the sediment from a mature wine whilst ensuring that it is not exposed to too much harmful oxygen as it come with a crystal stopper.

Younger wines however work best in decanters that allows for maximum aeration. Indeed, our young wine decanter has a long neck so you can swirl the wine energetically, encouraging the oxygen to hasten the young wine's evolution and mellow the flavours. The bowl is also large enough to accommodate a magnum, making it the perfect centrepiece for a dinner party.

Can you describe what you consider to be the perfect wine glass, in terms of size, stem height and ratio?

These questions are really bringing out the glass geek in me! The perfect wine glass for me is both practical and beautiful. Let’s start with the bottom up: the base of the wine glass should be relatively large (more or less the same size as the bowl), so you can achieve a balanced and comfortable swirl. Too small or large and your swirl might lead to a spill. I personally love a thin stemmed glass, although these can sometimes be impractical when washing in the dishwasher. Jancis and I were keen however to make the glass dishwasher safe, so you’ll notice that the stem on the Jancis glass is ever so slightly shorter than ordinary glasses so it can fit on the top shelf of any standard dishwasher. There should be a generous bowl, to allow for a good swirl and aeration, but this should then taper towards the top in order to capture the all- important aromas. Finally, the ideal rim is gossamer-thin so you can really appreciate every last sip.

No doubt it breaks your heart when you see people attacking a wine glass with a scouring sponge in dirty dishwater. What is your advice for perfect maintenance of glassware?

You know me too well! I can’t speak for other glassware, but for us, the safest and best way to clean the glasses is most definitely in the dishwasher. They come out sparkling clean every time! 

What advice would you give any wine manufacturer that is looking to help their bottles stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace?

The shape and colour of the bottle can really work wonders. Dom Perignon for example is a brilliant example of a bottle doing the talking. No label required!

Thanks for your time, Richard. Our last question is the most important of all, though. What are your favourite wines to sip from your lovingly-created designs?

Some of my favourite wines I’ve discovered whilst travelling (which feels particularly poignant now!) CVNE Contino was just beautiful when we travelled around Rioja a couple of years ago. The setting probably made it extra special: they boast a beautiful 15th century house amongst vineyards.

Over one dinner at the White house in Wanaka, NZ  we tried a 2013 Pinot Noir from Centra Ottago, Amisfield which blew my mind!

 

To enter our competition in partnership with Richard Brendon & La Fromagerie to win an al fresco hamper including a magnum of Pol Roger Champagne Brut Réserve, six Jancis wine glasses and the perfect cheese pairing - click here.

The Magnum Company