Wednesday, March 25, 2009

There's Titanium in the Glass

I was down to my last two Burgundy glasses and we were having my friend Deetrane and his family over for dinner to celebrate his birthday. One of the wines I wanted to pour was the 2001 Philippe Pacalet Pommard (a bit over the hill, as it turned out, but that's another story). So on a rainy Saturday afternoon a took my 2 year old daughter into The City, as we Brooklynites call it. We went to a popular kitchen/dining/that-kind-of-thing store and I picked out four Schott-Zwiesel Burgundy glasses. I'm not buying Riedel anymore as daily drinking glasses because no matter how careful I am, I break one glass every month or so, minimum. Riedel glasses are $20 each, Schott-Zwiesel glasses are also quite nice, and are half the price. Settled.

I had my daughter in one arm, the box of glasses in my other hand, and I put them on the checkout counter. The young woman behind the counter said "Oh, these are great glasses! Did you know that there is titanium in them?" No, I didn't know that.

Titanium is something of a wonder-metal. It is light, not all that dense, but very strong, easy to blend with other metals to create useful alloys for things ranging from aircraft engines to plastics to the outer coating of household tools. And apparently now, wine glasses. It makes perfect sense - titanium's lightness and strength, it's white color, and the relative ease with which it can be alloyed make it a great choice for stemware.

I reacted with surprise, so did my daughter, and the saleswoman said "Let me show you." She opened the box and took out one of the glasses. With a sudden movement she raised it up in her hand and banged it down on the counter, really banged it, smacking the bowl of the wine glass onto the wood. There was a loud "Gong" and I of course recoiled, trying to shield my daughter from what would certainly be a cascade of glass shards. But the glass did not break. Clearly this is the glass for me.

I laughed nervously and said "Wow, that's great, I'll just move my two year old out of the way next time," and she laughed, and again, more quickly this time, banged the glass on the counter. But this time it did break. It broke kind of like a windshield, a spider web of cracks and a few large chunks flew about the counter. Scary - what if glass had hit my daughter's face? But impressive too - even though she smashed it like you would use a hammer to strike a nail, the glass did not shatter.

Everyone was fine of course (except the saleswoman, who I'm guessing is not entirely fine in the head), and I still bought the glasses. And I haven't broken any yet. Then again, I haven't repeated the saleswoman's experiment.

18 comments:

Gene said...

Is that the Tritan glass? I've looked at those and was, I guess, slightly put off that it was machine-made. Maybe I'll pick some up so I can spare my nice Ravenscroft ones of further suffering in my hands.

Mike Drapkin said...

Brooklynguy,

We actually sell them at our shop and perform the same demonstration you describe. This summer we are bringing in plastic riedel "o" (replica) for only $2 bucks a glass! I tried them out and the aromatics are impressive. Great for summer bbq parties. Your friends can throw them against a brick wall with no damage whatsoever.....

Weston said...

I love my Schott Glasses Same story for me was at the store said they don't break easy picks it up and hits it on a corner really hard didn't break. One glass just broke last week after 14months of owning 4, down to 3. Not to shabby.

R.Robot said...

My wife gave me a set of the titanium glasses a few years back for Christmas. They are really nice glasses, although mine are the humorously large Bordeaux style - they are so tall they don't fit in any of our cabinents (maybe ours are small).

But my point is that while they are quite strong and robust, we have broken two! The weak link seems to the connection between the bowl and the stem - as each time that is what broke and we still had a perfectly good, although glass shardy bowl.

(also, I love how super light they are)

Laboratory Chief said...

I guess unbreakable is an even better alternative than the discount (but real) Riedl stemware they sell at Target.

But I'm more interested in the Pacalet Pommard. Seems early for it have thrown in the towel, no?

Dr. Vino said...

I performed my own test a few years ago. Children safely tucked away in bed.
http://www.drvino.com/2005/11/16/putting-stemware-to-test/

Great value glasses.

Tracie B. said...

i have a set of those, i've broken a couple trying to shove the top shelf of my dishwasher back in to place, unfortunately those pesky wine glasses got in the way. dumbass-ity aside, they are quite durable, but in texas i haven't found a shape and size that i really like.

i did find some riedel that i throw in the dishwasher, though. look for the restaurant series, they're a little thicker but much more sturdy and under 10 bucks a piece. i LOVE mine, they're short so i can fit a whole party of them in the dishwasher. (this is a most important quality as i am incapable/unwilling to handwash more than one glass at a time.)

Tista said...

Yes they are great. We use the Tritan range for our tastings at the Estate too. Pretty and solid little things they are.

I must admit that it's very tempting to bang the glasses against the table to show people, I've done it a few times, once with the same result as your shop keeper!

Jack Everitt said...

I've been using their Top Ten series since they came out (now years ago). Only broken one so far.

Sales people are more crazy in your neck of the woods I see.

Vinogirl said...

Went to a restaurant for my birthady the other night, The Bayleaf in Napa, and they used Zweisel glasses. I loved them, they showed off our wine perfectly.

Arjun said...

Interesting story. I've heard about the Schott Zwiesel glasses, but I always thought they were more expensive than Riedels, not the other way around.

Pacalet over the hill already? Perhaps it could have used some sulfur...

Laboratory Chief said...

My new favorite word is "dumbass-ity."

Dave said...

I have a bunch of their Forte line- good value and durable - also for the price- elegant well balanced- a pleasure to drink from

Brooklynguy said...

Gene - I'm honestly not sure. I think Congresso maybe, or maybe Pure? Dunno.

Hey Mike-Schist - I actually can't stand stemless glasses. I don't even put my hands on the bowl of my glass, only on the stem.

weston - see, i like those odds. that's why i'm trying them.

Robot - i looked at mine last night and i think i see what you're talking about. the point where the bowl is joined to the stem does look a bit weak. i'll be careful. famous last words.

hey JD - but then you have to give your money to targ**, which is like paying the overlords to take over the world. as far as the pacalet...you got me curious, and so i actually opened my last bottle last night with dinner, with better results. lots of variation i guess. even so, definitely a drink now wine if you have any.

hey Doc - sounds like you have a better eye for safety than I do.

hey Tracie B, now of 3-Bs - i agree with JD - "dumbass-ity" is a fine new word, one that i will use often. i actually have the restaurant series white glasses, and i have four remaining of the 12 i bought about a year and a half ago. those are some sturdy glasses, yup. but can you buy restaurant series in a regular old store?

Tista - it alarms me that you would consider performing this experiement at Salon-Delamotte. First of all, what if a few drops of Salon 96 were to accidentally spill on the floor. I can't tolerate tha kind of waste. Also, you open yourself to a myriad of lawsuits..

he Jack - yes, and not just salespeople. i think east coast is the dangerous crazies, west coast is the hippie-crazies.

hi vino girl - who do you make wine for?

Arjun - interesting idea. i'm no wine maker, but sulfur doesn't prevent the natural aging of wine, does it?

hi Dave - are they what you use in your tasting room?

Josh said...

Interesting, I wonder when we can expect a Riedel Sommeliers Titanium Series.

Tracie B. said...

they are hard to find, but 2B was doing a tasting at a store in san antonio and they had some. snatched 'em right up!

manufacturing opticians lanarkshire said...

Yes, amazing to see what goes into glass nowadays, how technology has progressed.

Anonymous said...

There are actually three metals in Schott Tritan. The first is Zirconium, which is also used in nuclear fuel rod cladding because of outstanding resilience to damage. The second is titanium, which is used instead of lead to improve the index of refraction and improve clarity. The third is Aluminum, which is added to improve workability in the molten state.