My treat this month was to buy myself a ticket to a ‘Unique and Fascinating Comparative Tasting with Maximilian J. Riedel’.
Although I do believe the right glass can increase one’s enjoyment of wine I hadn’t really understood the science behind it until now.
Riedel Crystal are renowned the world over, they have been producing glass for over 250 years and pioneered the use of grape-specific glassware.
The company is still family owned and we were lucky enough to have 11th generation Maximilian J Riedel, CEO of Riedel Crystal of America, to lead the tasting.
He was keen to stress that there has never been a Riedel glass designed on a drawing board. All are made in conjunction with winemakers through a number of workshops.
The first wine we tried was a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in the Riesling Grand Cru/Sauvignon glass (REF 6416/51). It has an intense aroma of gooseberry, citrus and tropical fruit, a second big sniff helps to take in a distinct herbaceousness – basil. Taking a sip you get the fruit, the minerality and a long lasting aftertaste.
The shape of the glass concentrates all those fantastic aromas. If you tip the glass on its side you can see the flow of wine is a sharp arrow, this helps guide the wine to a particular section of the palate, in this instance the front which picks up the ripeness of the fruit.
We transfer the same wine to a plastic cup (there is nothing wrong with plastic it is the shape of the glass that is all wrong apparently).
The plastic cup is flared out and so does not capture the flavours so well, making the wine appear more closed. The cup also means the wine hits the palate in a different way and the effect is noticeable. It hits the middle of the palate and spreads down the side of the tongue. The side of the tongue is where you pick up acidity and sourness. The wine no longer tastes fresh and fruity but sour and the finish is short.
Onto the Montrachet glass (REF 6416/57) which was first designed in 1972 by Max’s grandfather, Claus J Riedel, who was the first person to recognise the effects of shapes on the perception of wine.
This shape has one purpose to showcase the Montrachet-style Chardonnay. It has a wonderful wide bowl, affectionately known as the ‘bath tub’ as it floats beautifully in the bath!
The wine we enjoyed was a 2002 Chardonnay from Hawkes Bay in New Zealand.
It is a fantastic golden colour from the contact with oak and skin, it has a
distinct weight and is a peachy, oaky, nutty delight.
The Chardonnay has a fine minerality, bags of tropical citrus fruit. The wine continues to grow on the palate and it is not sour or bitter, but balanced.
When we tried the Chardonnay in the Riesling/Sauvignon Blanc glass – the first thing you experience is the alcohol –we lost the tropical fruit aroma, the wine felt dull, less vivid and heavier oaked.
The texture went from silky and buttery to dry and bitter, and the aftertaste short.
To the Pinot Noir glass (REF 6416/67) where we enjoyed a 2006 Pinot Noir with red fruit, ripe black cherries and balanced acidity.
The glass was commissioned by Oregon to celebrate its Pinot, and 16 wineries from the region participated in the workshops to create the glass.
Because of the tip of the glass, the flow of the wine is sharp and pointy and the tip of the tongue gets hit first instead of the sides, meaning acidity is not at the fore.
In the Chardonnay glass, the alcohol immediately hits the nose there is a hint of oak but hardly any fruit. It is not as silky, tastes too sharp and the tannins appear bitter.
Back in the plastic cup, the wine is much flatter, the fruit sits on bottom and the wine appears dull.
Okay, I could go on but hopefully now you’re getting that there is definitely something to this varietal specific glass stuff.
The wines we tried, tasted entirely different and it has to be said better and fuller when enjoyed in the correct glass.
So if you want to get the best out of your wine, you know what to do…
I arrived back in Madrid, Spain last weekend after four long months away. I’ve collected a lot of stories on my travels