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Dean's Corner – Wine Hock History

 

It is commonly known that different wines are savored best in glasses design specifically for each wine’s special characteristics.   Time, tradition, and more recently, science, have combined to suggest the optimum shape for glasses made for specific types of wine. The science part suggests that the control of how much of the surface of the wine is exposed to the air directly impacts its taste. The size of the bowl controls how much wine is exposed and how it can be swirled to enhance enjoyment.  The shape of the lip of the glass directs how the wine flows onto specific parts of the tongue where different taste sensors are located.  And if all of that is not enough, we are told the diameter of the glass opening either concentrates the rising aroma or bouquet of the wine or allows it to expand. If you are not a wine connoisseur, you possibly thought it was easy to pick a wine glass!

The name of a particular wine glass often echoes the type of wine or beverage to be served in it. There are glasses called bordeaux, burgundy, cabernet, chardonnay, and so on through the range of wines it goes. Wine glasses today are generally not colored or frosted as this would impede the appreciation of the wine’s color, which indicates age and quality. “Nothing should come between the wine and the connoisseur that is not necessary” is a current mantra. But this essay examines a deviation from this norm: the hock wine glass.

Shown one, you might recognize it. For well over a century, the form has included a tall stem and a reasonably small bowl. The hock wine bowl is often colored and lavishly cut, engraved, or otherwise decorated. The question that begs an answer is why do we call this distinctive form a “hock” wine?

Hock is an old English term for German white wine from Riesling grapes. Sometimes the term references specifically the wine from the Rhine regions and sometimes all German wine. “Hock” is short for the now-obsolete word “hockamore.” Hockamore is an English usage corruption of the name of the German town Hochheim, which lies on the Main River in the Rheingau wine region. The term seems to have been in use in the seventeenth century, initially for wines from middle Rhine, but in the eighteenth century became used as a term for any German wine sold in Britain. An 1850 visit by Queen Victoria to Hochheim during harvest time is a probable reason the term “hock” has stayed in use, as the visit generated popular interest and reinvigorated the term and awareness of the wine. The word continues to mean any white wine imported to the United Kingdom (or beyond) from Germany. In rare cases, “hock” wine glasses are also dubbed “Rhine” wine glasses.

A set of crystal hock wine glasses, which sometimes are produced with different colored bowls within a set, was an appropriate mid-twentieth century wedding gift, and still is today. People use the glasses to drink either white or red wine and often put them on display due to their attractive forms and colors. “Harlequin” is the term used  to describe a set of glasses where each is a different color but constitute one set. While many hock glasses come from Bohemia, the English also produced them.  Keep this information close at hand, it may be useful at your next cocktail or dinner party!

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