Exterior shot of Riva Restaurant in Barnes

Past The Tucci To The Right-Sized Glass

A wedding anniversary. A long-awaited return to a favourite Italian restaurant. A well-known American actor. A discovery about wine glasses.

These are the circumstances that made Jermann Vinnae 2009 a truly memorable bottle of wine [back in 2012*].

Exterior shot of Riva Restaurant in Barnes

It’s a warm evening in June and we’re a bit early for our table at Riva in Barnes, South West London.

Riva is tiny. There’s no music. The two highly efficient waiters have been there forever and the owner maintains a discreet presence at the back.

So, when you are the first to arrive and Stanley Tucci walks in right behind you, you notice.

He sits with his dining companion at the table opposite ours. Then I remember. I’ve seen him in the flesh before. On stage. Absolutely. Stark. Naked. And now he is, right in my eyeline.

Blushing just a little, I get very engrossed in the menu. Crab ravioli – TICK. Baby squid with wild herbs – TICK. A bottle of Vinnae – TICK. Could it get any better?

Well, yes – it could.

I look down and notice that despite our absence of a few years, it’s not just the front of house that has stayed the same. The wine glasses have too. But not in a good way.


Sitting proudly on our table are two short, thick pub-style glasses. Officially called banquet glasses, they scream “cheap” and “catering”. They do not scream “you will really enjoy drinking decent wine out of these.”

Now, I’ve always wondered why a restaurant like Riva (whose prices are not far behind the nearby River Café) has never upgraded. However, I have never asked, never complained and now find myself drinking a wine I love from one of these glasses.

To be fair, the experience isn’t bad. Vinnae is made primarily from Ribolla Gialla, an historic grape grown in the very North East of Italy. Just saying it must give about 20 muscles in your face a workout.

This bottle of Vinnae is silky and rounded with a deliciously fresh kick. I’m having a good time letting the citrus and blossom flavours roll around my mouth. With the crab ravioli, it’s absolute heaven.

But then I notice. Stanley is drinking white wine out of a proper glass. One with a long stem! A tulip shaped bowl! And thin glass!

I call over one of the waiters and point.

“What glasses are they drinking from?” I demand.

“Oh. They’re the tall glasses,” comes the reply and, at my request, they are quickly and effortlessly swapped with our stubby little friends. Well, who knew?

By this time, there is not much Vinnae left but I really, really enjoy the last few gorgeous drops without a thick barrier of glass between the wine and me.

Will I go back to Riva again? Of course! But next time, I’ll know to just ask for tall glasses (or take along a Hollywood star).

So, thank you Mr. Tucci for showing me more than just your splendid bottom…


*This post first appeared in Every Wine Tells A Story 2012 .  Stanley Tucci has since married his dining companion, Felicity Blunt, and has just published his second cookbook, The Tucci Table. We’ve still to make a return visit to Riva…

Silvio Jermann’s wines are imported into the UK by Enotria, which sells the latest vintage of Vinnae via Great Western Wines

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