When you think of the traditional wine glass, your mind thinks of exactly that – glass.
Sure, there are plenty of differences in shape and structure to consider. Some wine glasses are better suited to Italian red wines, whereas others are better suited to whites or sparkling wines.
But the one commonality that they have is that they’re made out of glass, just like the bottles that the wine is stored in. In fact, some would have you believe that drinking wine out of any other type of container is tantamount to sacrilege.
That makes one of the more recent trends to emerge in the wine industry all the more puzzling. It’s now possible to get wine glasses and mugs made using terracotta.
Now, this isn’t a brand new trend for the industry. In fact, terracotta has been used to make cups and mugs for centuries. However, it’s only recently that these interestingdesigns have come to the fore as potential vessels for your wine.
Here, we take a closer look at what terracotta is and reveal a few choice tidbitsof information that show that terracotta isn’t as strange a choice for wine glasses as you may think.
What is Terracotta?
Terracotta is somewhat unique in that it’s a ceramic material that’s made using clay. This means it’s an earthenware material that, through various techniques, is given the appearance of something else.
You have likely heard of terracotta before. In fact, it’s most famous use was in the creation of China’s famed Terracotta Army. This is fairly typical of its usage throughout the years. Terracotta has always been seen as something of a decorativeor artistic material. To this day, it’s not uncommon to find vases and other ornaments that are made using the material. Plus, it’s a favouriteamongst artists due to its earthenware origins and the effects that the ceramic has in terms of the aesthetic of the final product.
In fact, it is in art and architecture that terracotta has always seen its most extensive use. Beyond sculpting, it’s a popular material for tiles, again thanks to the shiny ceramic texture that it boasts. An examination of Victoria-era townhouses in England will show you how far the usage of the material has spread over the centuries. But it’s also been especially popular in many parts of Asia and in the Mediterranean for many years.
All of this is very impressive. But one could argue that it doesn’t mean that terracotta is a good material for a wine container. In fact, you could argue that earthenware, in general, is a bad choice as it’s possible that the material could change the taste of the wine.
And that’s where the other bit of interesting information about terracotta comes in.
It’s a Traditional Wine Container
Those who know their wine history will likely have heard of the term “amphora”. You may also be able to identify these as the vessels that the Ancient Romans, among many others, used to create their wines.
What you may not know is that amphora were made out of clay. These vessels were used to store and age wines. In fact, they were often buried underground to help them accomplish this task.
You see, earthenware materials have been present in the wine industry for almost as long as the industry has existed. In fact, they were the sole containers available back in the days before glass was easily producible on a massive scale.
As such, you could argue that the trend towards using terracotta and other earthenware materials is actually bringing us back to the most traditional aspects of the entire industry.
You may make the argument that the Italian wine industry has evolved massively since the days of amphora. And you’d be right.
But does that mean we should discount terracotta and other types of clay as a storage medium for wine?
It would seem like some producers don’t think we should. In fact, the 2010s haveseen several Italian producers making wines using amphora. So, perhaps it should come as no surprise that there are those who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at drinking wine out of a terracotta container.
But Are There Any Benefits or Drawbacks?
The truth is that this is all subjective. The only person who can really say if you enjoy a wine that you drink out of a terracotta glass is you.
But there are certainly some things that we can speculate on.
For example, we could perhaps quite safely assume that the earthenware nature of the material could lend a new dimension to wines that already have mineral-based properties. Perhaps a terracotta glass could lend more earthy wines an even stronger flavourprofile.
However, the ceramic nature of the material suggests otherwise. The clay that forms the basis of terracotta isn’t really going to come into contact with the wine. The glasses and mugs are essentially neutral, which would make them much like traditional glass.
What we do know is that it’s a lot more difficult to get terracotta glasses that match the shapes needed to get the most of your wine. As noted earlier, wine glasses come in different shapes and sizes to allow you to get the most out of specific types of wine. Thinner glasses tend to work best for white wines, whereas a red wine glass should offer a larger bowl to allow for oxygen to do its thing with the wine.
Right now, it seems like there’s very little variety when it comes to the terracotta glasses that are on offer. So while it seems unlikely that the material itself is going to have much of an effect on your wine, it’s entirely possible that the lack of options in terms of shape could.
So we come back to the key question – is terracotta bad for your wine?
We believe the answer is no. You’re unlikely to experience any major taste differences caused by the material itself. However, you may have to look a little harder to find suitable terracotta glass shapes, depending on the wine that you want to drink.