Hello Mochatini readers! My name is Brian Barber. I am the owner of Sophietta, a glass manufacturing business specializing in hand made goblets. I started Sophietta as a side project in 2009 with some friends. Since then I have taken a bit of a hiatus from glassblowing to attend architecture school. Now that I am finished (yay!) I am restarting Sophietta while I build a career in architecture and look to bring together my passions for glass and architecture one day by evolving Sophietta into a lighting design firm. In the meantime, I will keep things simple by focusing Sophietta on my other passion: wine.
The Holidays are a time for many of us to get together with friends and family to enjoy food and, more importantly, celebratory drinks. Why not enjoy those drinks in the proper glass? Especially when it comes to wine.
Full disclosure: I am a glassblower and producer of wine glasses. It’s my passion. They have always been difficult to make and difficult to sell. But when I see someone enjoying a wonderful drink out of something I made, I couldn’t be happier. Why should anyone spend a fair amount of money on a handmade wine glass when they can be bought at any box store for a few dollars? Good question. Let me fill you in on the details!
Let’s start with the basics: goblet shape. There is a logic behind all of the proportions and details that define a well-made wineglass.
First, the bowl. It is the most important part of the goblet. A well-shaped bowl is not only beautiful, but can enhance the wine drinking experience. Red wine is perhaps the most thought of when the shape of the bowl is considered. Wide at the base and tapering to a narrow lip, a glass for red wine is meant to capture the aromas, or the bouquet, of the wine. To really capture the bouquet the wine has to be swirled in the glass thereby concentrating the vapors in the middle, making the one drinking the wine able to capture them more easily. White wine glasses are similar in shape but generally have smaller proportions because of the more delicate flovors. Sparkling wines are served in taller, narrower bowls in an effort to preserve their effervescence. The thought is that the gasses are released more slowly in a vessel that is a bit more closed in its shape.
Next, the gambo, or stem of the goblet. Stem-less wine glasses have grown in popularity over the past few years, which is okay for red wines but for whites it can be damaging. The stem is where the one drinking the wine is meant to hold the goblet. This takes advantage of the natural balance of the vessel. Holding the stem also keeps the hand away from the bowl, which means no warming of white and sparkling wines and no interference of the aromas from the aroma of hand soaps and lotions.
Finally, the foot. Its importance maybe be obvious; of course you need a means of setting your glass down when a family member hands you that new baby, or its time to unwrap presents. But, as I mentioned in the last paragraph, the foot adds balance to the entire apparatus. It’s weighty, it’s on the opposite end as your drink so, it allows the drinker (or should I say connoisseur) to expend minimal effort to keep things together…..because we all know there isn’t just one glass of that delicious wine to be consumed!
So that’s the basics of the goblet shape, allow me to elaborate a little on the virtues of the handmade object. Crafts men and women ruled the world of consumer goods for thousands of years. They knew their customers well, and their customers knew them. They were part of a community. Things are really different now, but the world remains a very small place in some ways. Now we have online communities. Distance can separate, but technology keeps us close. It’s important to know the ones from whom goods are purchased. It builds relationships. I know it’s impossible to throwback to the old days when milk was bought from farmer Bob down the way and the lettuce was from Ethel “just up yonder”, but there will always be virtue in the effort.
What’s the advantage of buying something from someone you have met? It will always come with a story. As I mentioned, I am a glassblower. I did it professionally for sixteen years before I went back to school to become an architect. My first experience blowing glass was at age eleven when my grade school class took a field trip to the Black Forest (my family was living in Germany at the time). Nine years later I found myself in art school taking classes in the glass. Over the next several years I took advantage of every opportunity to gain experience and build skill. I worked very hard at becoming the best glassblower I could. I became obsessed with goblet making because that is the pinnacle of skill for a glass blower. Every goblet I make is a testament to thousands of hours practicing those shapes repeatedly. There is a bit of my story, my history, in every goblet I produce. Does a machine- made, mass-produced goblet sold for three dollars come with a background like that? No, and every crafts person has a similar story. Every object made by hand comes with a similar background.
Consider these things as we all raise our glasses this season to toast achievements, the ones closest to us, or the good fortune of making it through another year. We have completed another chapter, not only in our stories, but in the grand narrative of the human race. To hold a hand-made object is to have a page from a book and to participate in another’s story. That person may be across the country or on the other side of the world, but there it is, a piece of their story. Think about it. A wise man once said, “It is our stories that bring us together.” Remember that.