I was recently invited to go to see and hear Max Riedel presenting a range of his wine glasses (the ‘O’ stemless range) in an attempt to prove that having glasses of different shapes really makes a difference.
Now I was something of a sceptic going into the event – for me I liked the shape of some of the Riedel glasses and they seemed a sensible shape for glassware to be but different glasses working better with different wines – surely not!
Some of what Riedel do is all very classical and you can find similar traits from many of the best glass producers – that is they need to be thin, with a good size, bowl and some tapering towards the top – but what Riedel also believe is that the size and shape of the bowl and the size of the rim makes a difference in where the wine lands in your mouth and so the sensation of taste.
Sensible Riedel suggest that you spend the same amount of money on a glass as you do on a good bottle of wine – after all it would be a shame to drink expensive wine from glasses that don’t allow that wine to show itself.
Now onto the tasting, we started by tasting water in five different glasses – I have to be honest here and say that Max was picking out masses of different characters in the water from this – but whilst I could detect where the wine landed in my mouth – differences in the water? – Not for me – it was water!
But the onto the wines – we had a (frankly not very good) big oaky Chardonnay from New Zealand (Riedel use new world wines because they show more varietal character in a more obvious way), and tasted it in an oaked Chardonnay glass and a Riesling glass – the difference was immense, the large bowl of the Chardonnay allowed the wine to show itself whilst the Riesling glass led to a mute and dull wine with overpowering acidity. Very interesting.
Then we tasted a New Zealand Syrah in a Pinot Noir, Cabernet and a Shiraz glass – and again the Shiraz glass came out well on top, showing more peppery spice, complexity and concentration whilst the others seemed a little out of balance.
And here is where the tasting finished – I was now fully convinced that if you put a red wine made from Syrah into a Syrah glass it would taste better, the same with a Chardonnay – but what I was still sceptical (yes I know you have to work hard to win me around) whether if I took another red variety for instance, whether I would find it worked better in the Syrah glass or whether its own glass would work best. Is it just that the Syrah glass is the best glass.
Fortunately Riedel gave me a tasting set to take home, and now I can compare to my hearts content. So far I’ve just used one wine, an Argentinian Merlot (yes I know MERLOT – but actually this really wasn’t bad at all) and tasted across the range – in the white wine glasses the wine was a complete flop – no fruit and all acidity – pretty vile in fact – and most interestingly from a tasting point of view the glass that is most similar to an ISO was by far the worst – the Riesling glass – no wonder we sell loads of Riesling at tastings!
Across the reds the average was better, but most interestingly the Shiraz glass came of worst, but it was a pretty close thing between Pinot Noir and Cabernet Glass (the Cab glass is the recommended glass for Merlot) but the Cab eventually won only after a bit of eyes closed tasting.
So all in all, so far I’m getting more convinced – I will continue to drink wine and experiment – if only for the pleasure of the three people who read my blog!