The Beauty of a Single Glass

The difference between a surfeit and a single glass of wine...

© Shutterstock

The difference between a surfeit and a single glass of wine...

© Shutterstock

We wine lovers occupy an indulgent world. We arrive at tables covered with wafer-thin wine glasses prepped for comparative tastings. Photos of the bottles will soon be posted across social media to invoke nostalgia, pride and occasionally envy. We dedicate much time to such tasting, to hedonistic afternoons that don´t so much blur as obliterate the line between lunch and dinner. Afterwards we marvel at the bottles consumed.

Bacchanalian pleasure

For many of us, these get-togethers with friends and colleagues to share bottles are one of the great pleasures in life. Comparative vertical and horizontal tastings allow us to explore wine in a way that we wouldn´t, and likely couldn´t, do alone. Big tastings allow for dozens of wines to be tasted in a single day; searching for nuggets of gold amongst the many hundreds presented from a region or country. Yet, for all of this bacchanalian pleasure and academic process, something is always lost in the undertaking. Often, it´s the understated, individual beauty of what´s actually in your glass.

Contrasts and nuances

There are wines that jump out of the glass and wines that need to be gently coaxed in order to show their true colours. There are wines that are firm and unyielding, as well as wines that are silky smooth and inviting. There are wines that gently coat the palate with their soft texture, and wines that light up our palates with shocking precision and freshness. Yet these terms could apply to thousands of different wines; what makes each glass so interesting are the subtle, language-defying nuances that truly define each wine in its own right.

Yet these very nuances are the first elements to be muddied by the scale of large tastings. They are the first victims of the alcohol-soaked joy of an all-day lunch, lined up in a beauty-pageant against their peers. This is particularly true for subtle wines, and a key reason why they often go under in competitions and themed tastings.

The single glass

But now consider a single glass of wine. Untroubled by comparison, unspoilt by the need to rush, the noise of a busy lunch, inebriation or frantic note-taking. A single glass of wine enjoyed over an evening, or a day, is just what it is; no more and no less. If it´s a bold, open sort of wine it will be all the more expressive for its own company. If it´s a subtle, nuanced wine then it will have the chance to slowly unfold itself over time and reveal its hidden layers. Even a simple style of wine will be its truest self in isolation, for better or worse.


So often we are counselled “to drink less but better.” Far be it from me to speak against that but perhaps consider exploring the beauty of a single glass of wine instead. Get to know a bottle of wine over several days instead of a single night; aside from the clear head the next morning, the gentle, gradual evolution of a wine you know well might just surprise you. Sometimes less really can be more.