From museum exhibits, old paintings and stories, I see that wine has been drunk out of cups of all sorts, from animal horns and pewter and silver goblets, to gold cups and ceramic vessels. Why do we use only glass these days?
Historically, wine lovers have used whatever material is available for drinking vessels. Glass is a relatively new material, considering that wine as been around for almost 10 000 years. Early glass containers were brittle in comparison to, say, silver or horn. Today there are still occasions when glass is not the ideal material—on picnics, for example, or on board a yacht. These situations are probably best served by plastic or stainless steel drinking vessels.
Glass has many practical advantages over other materials. It allows the drinker to see the colour and clarity of the wine, for example, and it can be made thin and delicate. Ceramic wine cups feel chunky and clumsy on the lips, and metal ones have a cold feeling. Modern glass can be made as plain or as ornate as you wish. It can be as cheap or expensive as you choose, and it does not impart any foreign tastes to the contents. Glass is easy to clean and does not harbour any microbes. Gold and silver may be very dramatic, but there’s really nothing to beat a fine, clear wine glass.