After years of conscientious, selfless research, I’m pleased to announce that I have finally discovered the perfect wine glass. It’s called Essence, and was designed by Alfredo Häberli for the celebrated Finnish glassware and ceramics company Iittala.

Touch of glass… at once primitive and sophisticated.

What’s so great about it? Working on a book about modern Finnish design for Nokia a couple of years ago, I came to appreciate the beautiful functional simplicity inherent in all manner of products from that part of the world. As I wrote at the time, Finnish design has “a touching, unpretentious simplicity that is at once primitive and sophisticated; lines, forms and materials aligned to the natural world; a purity and integrity that speaks directly to the soul.” Sounds good… shame it never made it to the printers. Essence is beautifully proportioned — the foot of the stem is exactly the same diameter as the base of the bowl, so it doesn’t topple over easily, and feels perfectly balanced in the hand. The rim is distinctly narrower than the base which gives the shape a certain drama, but again, this is impeccably judged, so it doesn’t appear zany or contrived. Overall, it looks timelessly elegant, but still holds a deceptively large amount of wine. And though the glass itself is fairly thin and pleasing to drink from, it’s surprisingly robust, able to take washing up bumps in its stride or even being kicked over on a wooden floor. The other reassuring thing is that you can always get more of them. They were originally brought out in 2001, and are still very much part of the Iittala range. With supermarket wine glasses, often you end up with three odd ones and then annoyingly find that they’ve been discontinued. OK, at £12 a pop Essence is a bit on the pricey side. But they’re no more expensive than similar offerings from any other proper glass-makers. And they do make drinking wine even more pleasurable — I can certainly vouch for that. Cheers. PS If Iittala sounds vaguely familiar, it’s probably because of the famous Finlandia (or Aalto) vase, designed by Alvar Aalto back in 1937. Its enigmatic organic contours are said to be reminiscent of the many thousands of lakes in Finland… Although Aalto himself always rather impishly insisted he was inspired by folds in a young peasant girl’s dress.

Aalto-gether now… never one to skirt around the issue.

Leave a comment