Invest in some fine wine glasses and taste the difference this year
If you are going to do one thing to up your entertaining game this year, consider investing in a good set of wine glasses.
“Glasses are instruments, a conveyor belt of sorts,” Maximillian Riedel said. The CEO and President of RIEDEL wine glass company continued, “They convey the message of fine wine.”
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Riedel’s (pronounced like needle) family has been in the glass making business for more than 265 years. “My grandfather had a feel for design in the 1950s, when ornate, decorative lead crystal was the rage,” Riedel said.
Today the family makes glasses that are sleek, delicate, and precisely engineered for the optimal tasting experience.
RIEDEL glasses are specific to each grape variety. They are not interchangeable.
I used to think this was a little extravagant. That changed when Riedel took me through a tasting during one of my Grape Minds Podcast. It has forever changed the way I view wine glasses.
Two of RIEDEL’s most recent collections are the sleek Veloce and sizeable Winewings. We used Winewings.
These glasses pulse out at the bottom, like wings. Riedel designed the enlarged bowl to accommodate changes in flavor profiles resulting from global warming. Warmer vineyard sites are producing more concentrated fruit and higher alcohol wines that need more room to breathe.
During our experiment we sipped from chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon glasses.
You can conduct a similar experiment without this lineup. Grab two glasses with different sized openings and bowls. Riedel gives permission to take a swig from the bottle to start. From this vessel there is very little aroma, and one-dimensional flavors.
We filled all four glasses with chardonnay to begin.
From the designated chardonnay glass erupted delightful scents of fruit, vanilla and spice. In the pinot and cab glasses, the aroma disappeared, and the wine was dull.
The rim circumference and bowl size are not only important for smell but also how the wine flows into your mouth. The glass designs force your head into different positions when sipping, allowing the wine to hit different parts of the tongue.
Chardonnay has less acidity than a sauvignon blanc and is better received by the taste buds in the center of your palate, according to Riedel.
The tip of the tongue is more attuned to fruit flavors. The smaller opening in the sauvignon blanc glass forces you to stick your tongue out a little more. By hitting the fruit sensors first, the acid is tempered.
Acidic wines are best in glasses with smaller bowls and more narrow rims.
This includes pinot noir. Even though it is red wine, pinot tends to be more acidic than merlot or cabernet. Big, tannic cabs need bigger bowls. Riedel says you want cab to hit the center of the tongue and roll over the sides.
Here are more of his tips.
Never rinse a wine glass with water while tasting
When transitioning from white to red, simply empty glasses. Do not rinse with water that can have a distinct taste. The flavors of red wine will usually dominate what is left of the white.
Leave room in your glass
Never over pour or fill wine to the top of glass. Wine needs room in the glass to open and fill the bowl with aromas.
There is no such thing as a generic wine glass
It’s like playing 18 holes of golf with one club, it does not work. It’s not feasible to purchase a set for every varietal so start with those you drink most often. Then add to your collection.
Break up with Champagne flutes and coups
When it comes to Champagne, Riedel says, ditch the flutes and coups. They may be festive and fashionable but neither enhances the flavors of sparkling wines. The mouth of the flute is so small that the predominant scent is yeast rather than fruit and flowers.
“Whoever drinks Champagne from a flute can never meet it seriously,” he said.
The oversized rim of the coup causes you to slurp. The bubbles explode, there is more foam than wine as well as acidity. “If Champagne gives you heartburn, consider the glass you are drinking from,” he said.
Stemless wine glasses
Riedel invented stemless wine glasses in 2004. He didn’t have enough room for varietal specific stemware in his small Manhattan apartment. By removing the stems, he could stack his glass collection.
He explained, “It’s the bowl that makes the difference in a glass, not the stem.” The stem is more for aesthetics and that melodious clink. RIEDEL’s stemless collection is also varietal specific and includes Winewings designs.
The wine glass is the final connection to the senses. A good glass is one of the keys to a good wine experience. Cheers.
Gina Birch writes about food, wine and spirits for The News-Press and at thebirchbeat.blogspot.com. Follow her as @ginabirch on Twitter and find her on Facebook.