On Plastic Cups

September 8, 2009 at 4:35 pm (Our Favorite Things, What we are thinking, What we're drinking) (, , , , , , , )

by Jane

As much as ‘wine people’ talk about the right glassware to drink out of, with our cognac glass different than our American whiskey glass, our Cabernet glass different than our Burgundy glass, there comes a time when we all drink wine out of a plastic cup (or maybe even paper!). Perhaps it’s a street fair; it’s a concert in the park; it’s a Sunday picnic. In these situations, it is ridiculous to even think about the ‘proper’ glassware. But the question arises: if you know that you’re going to be drinking out of a plastic cup, what do you drink? If you know that the ‘glassware’ d’jour is actually plastic and horribly unsuited for fully expressing a wine (yes, I am a wine geek at heart), what do you choose?

I was presented with this exact conundrum the other day when heading to an outdoor concert at Grant Park with my family. A casual picnic dinner that needed a couple bottles of wine (and, of course, my parents volunteered me to provide said bottles). So what tastes best out of a plastic cup?

And there lies the answer: what tastes best. The aroma is going to be lost to some extent. The slanted little sides of a plastic cup provide no room for swirling; all the luscious smells fall flat and recede against them. So you need a wine that is both wildly aromatic (to get even a faint hint of what the smell should be), but more importantly, super flavorful. Subtlety is lost in plastic cups. And younger wines tend to work better. Nothing that needs any ‘opening up’ is going to work. You don’t bring a decanter to a picnic.

And, I suppose, the most obvious answer to the question at hand is also: something cheap. Because, let’s face it, you’re really not getting all that the wine has to offer.

So, armed with these general notions, I chose the following for a Friday night listening to music in the rain at Grant Park:

1. 2008 Scarpetta Pinot Grigio, Friuli, Italy

Probably the weakest choice of the three. A little too subtle on both the palate and the nose to beat the plastic cup. A truly lovely wine, though! I am a huge fan of all the Scarpetta stuff. Very tropical on the nose, with notes of papaya and pineapple. Delicate and fat on the palate, with fruitiness up front balanced by a bitter floral finish and great stony acidity. Lavender, pear, and even a leesy note. Just awesome.

2. 2008 Tcherga Cab/Merlot Rosé, Bulgaria

Totally worked in a plastic cup! You still got faint hints of watermelon and strawberry on the nose. A less acidic rosé than most, with a nice roundness and a hint of sweetness. Very playful and fresh. Great with a shrimp salad and some fresh fruit.

3. 2008 Forlorn Hope Suspiro del Moro, Lodi, California

My favorite of the three. This is a light, young, fresh, low alcohol red that is outrageously flavorful and aromatic. Smokey, with loads of grilled strawberries and raspberries, and a chalky minerality. Pristine, plush texture. Goes down easy and invites sip after sip. The plastic cup had nothing on this wine.

The night was a smashing success, and everyone really liked all three wines. And no one had any idea how much thought went into choosing what wine they would be drinking out of a plastic cup.

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