Sunday, July 6, 2014

What Piece Type is This Stemware Anyway?

From left to right: Water Goblet 7 3/4"; Claret 7"; White Wine 6 3/4"; Coupe Champagne 6 3/4"; Cocktail 6 1/4"; Cordial 5 7/8"; Sherry 5 7/8"

Here is a group of Hawkes' #6015 shape stemware illustrating the standard shapes and sizes available in a pattern. Most American stemware between, and briefly after the two World Wars conformed to this distribution.

Not perfectly to scale in this assembled picture, but you can see very clearly, for example, that the claret––that is, red wine--is a smaller version of the goblet, the white wine is shorter and narrower than the claret, the champagne's bowl is visibly wider than the cocktail's, the cordial is little larger than a "thumble", and the sherry, always the top contender for most confused, has––with few exceptions––a V-shaped bowl. These shapes were standardized in the late 19th Century (the cocktail being the last to appear) and used into the 1960s.

Today however, few people have any desire or use for any but the water goblets for wine, and maybe one of the smaller pieces for a cordial. 99% of the time online sellers will identify the claret, white wine, cocktail, cordial and sherry as cordials, the champagne as a wine (which of course champagne is, but who would ever say to a guest, "Here's a glass of wine" when they were serving them champagne?) And the water goblets are often called "wines". 

Today of course, simple, undecorated and oversized stemware is the standard, distinguished by the type of wine that will be served in it. Times have changed, foods and libations are nothing like they were even 75 years ago, thus serving them has changed as well. Can you imagine a dinner in 1930 with a guest of today trying to swirl wine around in a claret glass? Um hmm, and then wearing it for the rest of the night!

Many of us collect the old stemware, most to display as objets d'art. Personally, I get great pleasure using my huge water goblets for wine. Later I will show barware and other pieces from the same stem shape. Stay tuned and see the difference between an Oyster Cocktail, an Iced Tea, and between a Highball and an Old Fashioned, or Rocks glass!

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