I’ve long been envious of the French home. While living in Paris for several years in the late aughts, I would marvel at how my French friends hosted an impromptu dinner party: with a perfectly worn Provencal tablecloth, mismatched plates that always seemed cohesive, and delicate cake stands that held a tarte tatin or clafoutis for dessert.
But what stuck with me the most—and what I’ve come to emulate—was the wine jugs. As limited budgets never allowed for expensive bottles in my crowd, many of my friends opted to serve their libations in glazed, stoneware pitchers. This was an easy way to class up a five-euro wine, reminiscent of how French cafes serve house wine in similar jugs (bottles are always more expensive).
On a weekend trip to the Loire Valley, I stumbled across Poterie Agny, the shop of a local potter specializing in hand-thrown vases, jugs, and more. I set out to pick a pitcher from a stoneware selection that ranged from rustic brown to light greens and reds, some emblazoned with grapes or flowers.
My pichet is a swirling kaleidoscope of sapphire, cobalt, and light turquoise, contrasted with a hint of chestnut brown on the rim and handle. When my time abroad came to a close, I bubble-wrapped the pitcher and tucked it carefully into a suitcase.
Since then, it’s traveled with me through two states, five apartments, and two houses as one of my most prized possessions.
Despite its humble origins as a cauldron for inexpensive wine, I use it to add a bit of color and rustic elegance to my dining table. Guests often comment on its mesmerizing swirls and ask where I got it.
Oenophiles may be keen on pricier glass decanters, but I believe my $10 bottles taste better after spending some time swirling in my humble stoneware. Yet like other decanters, there’s still an element of ceremony in pouring the bottle, letting the wine aerate on the table while guests gather, and then pouring into glasses.
And instead of showing off labels and terroir, the easy-drinking wine in my pitcher is for nights of casual conversation and laughter. It harkens back to old world family gatherings in France, Spain, Italy, and elsewhere where wine is still served in clay tumblers or stone cups.
I love how a simple jug can embody all of that history and yet remain so highly functional. It fits one bottle of wine perfectly with enough room to breathe. The curved handle sits balanced in your hand, while the small spout pours the wine slowly and smoothly so you’re careful not to spill a drop. Plus, in between dinner parties, the pitcher works brilliantly as a vase for flowers.
Each pitcher can be a bit different from the next—just look at the range of options on Etsy—but no matter the exact color or shape, a good pichet will bring that covetable air of je ne sais quoi into your home.