The wine glass has been around for ages. An early type of wine glass was a clay goblet that was used during the Pleistene Age by the Britons. The Britons then learned to create a copper alloy during the Bronze Age and used tankards made of wood and bronze. In the beginning of the Roman Empire the Romans used goblets made of silver and pottery, and they also made goblets out of lead.
500-600 AD – a small cup with a thin stem was used by the upper classes, and the lower classes used goblets made of pottery. When the Saxons invaded they brought gold goblets covered in jewels and also horns that when used had to be taken as one drink because they had no stems or legs and had to be laid down.
700-800’s – Horns and cups made of silver were used, although the horn cups were no longer allowed by the Church for communion.
Late 900’s – Tankards made of wood were used frequently.
Late 1000’s – Clear glass cups were commonly used in England.
Mid 1300’s – Black jack was used. This was made of leather and was in the shape of a jug or a pitcher. The name comes from the black inner lining of the jug and a ‘jack’, which at the time was a leather jacket worn by archers.
From the 1600’s on many different types of glasses or cups were used. A few of the more interesting include:
Piggin—from the middle ages, a small leather cup, short for pig or pigskin (above)
Noggin—small wooden mug around 1/4 pint
Goddard—pewter vessel used by the church
Bombard—tall, holding several gallons, richly decorated (above)
Hanap—a tall, ornate largely ornamental vessel, eventually only used on special occasions and stored in a hanaps basket, hence a hamper
Tappit-Hen or Stirrup Cup—A tankard with a cup shaped lid originating in Scotland, used to send off guests late at night with a final brew, the lid keeping the brew safe when the guests departed on horseback (above)
Fuddling cup—vessel with three or more small cups with interlinked handles and joined through a small hole in the walls, the idea was to drink from one cup without spilling the contents of the others (above)
Whistle cup—From the Middle ages, whoever could drink the most for the longest got to blow the whistle as the ‘last man standing’ to order more drink
Puzzle jug—jug with many holes around the neck which have to be closed with fingers and thumbs to make sure you can drink from the top (above)
Yard glass—traditionally a quart measure from the mid 1600’s with a bulb at one end which had to be drunk without taking it from ones lips
Milk jugs—before coffee and tea, mixes of herbs and milk were drunk around the table from a communal jug shaped like a cow, the tail being the handle. This later became a communal wine glass passed around (above).
Coconut and ostrich egg cups—both have been made into silver encrusted cups (above)
Gourd cup—originated in the early 1600’s fashioned in silver to look like a gourd with the stem being the tree trunk (above)
Toby jugs—can be sailors, priests, policemen or anyone from famous ceramic makers and there is no shortage of variations made (above)
Wine tasters—a little silver flat bowl with two handles on each side or just one handle, flat with the top rim. From the Medieval days to taste the contents of bowls to convince guests that nothing was poisoned (above).
The finest glass was made from the late 17th century to the early stages of the 18th century. The most popular form was a simple goblet with a glass stem.
Jacobite glass—became common from the 1700’s onwards with each Freemason lodge having it’s own glassware (above)
Dice glasses—have two dice sealed into the base, used in old taverns to settle who pays for the purchases
Last drop glass—featured an engraved man hanging from the yardarm that is not visible till the last drop is drunk.
The most famous wine glasses are made by the Reidel company. Each is specifically shaped for each type of wine so that the wine will go to the right area of the tongue and help it taste the best.
Lastly, there are special glasses for wine tastings called ISO wine tasting glasses. ISO stands for International Standards Organization. Each glass is made to a specific size and shape for each wine. They’re made out of clear crystal and have a tapered bowl that help circulate the wine and funnel the vapours to get an accurate ‘nose’. It’s the workhorse wine glass for all reputable wine shows.