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james suckling uncorked

In Need of a Tasting Tool


Posted: May 20, 2009 11:59pm ET

I like drinking wine out of nice stemware. I have a large collection of Riedel glasses at home. And I taste out of Riedels for my day job. Georg Riedel always called them "tools" or "instruments," and I think he is right, although perhaps his nomenclature is less elegant than some.

I was thinking about this the other night in Los Angeles, when a friend organized a dinner with some people at Breadbar, and we drank a number of excellent bottles, including a magnum of 1999 Corton Charlemagne, 2005 Austrian Riesling and a 2005 Arbois red, not to mention a couple of Arizona wines from Maynard James Keenan. BUT we had to drink the wines from small water glasses. The Dead Bar (I mean Breadbar) did not have wine glasses! And no, we were not there to just eat bread.

Chef Ludovic Lefebvre, who worked in Vegas and before that at L'Orangerie and Bastide, is doing a limited run as guest chef five nights a week at Breadbar, until the end of August. I remember him from L’Orangerie, where he had a deft hand in producing flavorful yet refined food. Alas, his hand was not put to good use on my visit. It was all pretty bland, to say the least, from a starter of juiceless beef stew to a main of slightly watery cassoulet of cod. His heart just wasn’t into cooking at the Breadbar, I guess. Bread was good though.

My favorite wine of the night was the 2005 F.X. Pichler Riesling Loibner Oberhauser that showed amazing mineral, flint and honey with hints of apricots and peaches! It was rich, deep and gorgeous. 92 points, non-blind. I just wish I had had a wine glass to drink it out of, in order to enjoy it better. Call me difficult. But I need a "tasting tool" to enjoy a great bottle of wine.

Matt Scott
Honolulu HI —  May 21, 2009 2:22am ET
I'm so pathetic that I MUST travel with my stemware. Some call it snobbery; I call it the true way to enjoy what a wine has to offer. Two Bordeaux glasses and a pair of Sauvignon Blanc/Riesling. Pathetic and Riedel.....
James Suckling
 —  May 21, 2009 10:58am ET
I understand. I have a Riedel brief case myself with four glasses. I have broken all of them a few times while traveling!!
Sandy Fitzgerald
Centennial, CO —  May 21, 2009 11:08am ET
Colorado does not have corkage or byob, all against the law. If the restaurant does not have proper wine glasses, I don't order wine. I normally tell the waiter why I'm not ordering wine. If they want their markups the least they can do is provide the proper equipment. For your story James, I not surprised that a restaurant to cheap to have proper wine glasses only served mediocre food.
Tom Hudson
Wilmington, Delaware —  May 21, 2009 11:53am ET
Unless I know that an establishment has appropriately sized, quality stems, I always bring my own to restaurants.Hopefully they'll get the hint and upgrade their "tools".
David Peters
Mission Viejo, CA —  May 21, 2009 1:17pm ET
James, I feel your pain!!! After absurd mark-ups, my biggest beef with restaurants is cheesy and inappropriate glassware used for wine. My gosh, restaurants can get beautiful, break-resistant stemware such as Schott Zwiesel titanium for under $6 a stem wholesale. It's great stuff and can be run through commercial dishwashers. Poor glassware is a reflection on the management's lack of interest in proper wine service. If I have to bring my own stemware to enjoy the wine they don't get my repeat business; after-all, it's not my responsibility to do their job for them.
Lorenzo Erlic
victoria canada —  May 21, 2009 2:53pm ET
You seem to be in need of a noun: I have a suggestion... ME!
Richard Gangel
San Francisco —  May 21, 2009 3:18pm ET
A French bistro in San Francisco whose food is quite good has an interesting policy on wine glasses. If one orders a cheaper bottle of wine the wine is served in a small, inexpensive wine glass. If one orders a better (more expensive) wine the glass is larger and more appropriate. Once we were sitting next to a couple who noticed the difference and mentioned the difference in the glasses to us. I thought it best not to comment on the restaurant's policy and said nothing. It was an awkward experience.
Jordan Horoschak
Houston, TX —  May 21, 2009 3:28pm ET
I am shocked at how many of you bring your own stemware to a restaurant! I consider myself something of a wine snob, but apparently I've been missing out on the full spectrum of snobbery! I just never thought to do it... and I've never seen it done. I guess it's something to consider.
Alan Vinci
springfield, n.j. —  May 21, 2009 3:44pm ET
Matt I have to agree with you when it comes to stemware, I bring my riedel glasses when I travel also.I usually bring both Bordeaux and burgundy glasses and I make sure to bring a few good bottles of wine with me to enjoy in my room. I have been to many fine restaurants here in Jersey and have been very disapointed when a fine wine is poured in a cheap glass. Lack of attention to stemware is a subject many restaurants need to address.
Jason Thompson
Foster City, CA —  May 21, 2009 3:44pm ET
Now that this has become a discussion on the best stemware, what is everyone's opinions?

I have a mix of everything. I have 4 of each of the Sommelier series Riedel glasses for both Burgundy and Bordeaux. I have a mix of 10 Riedel Vinum Bordeaux glasses and 5 Spiegelau Authentis Bordeaux glasses for every day use (I have a feeling that Riedel discontinued the Authentis after they purchased the Spiegelau company.

For everyday pinot/burgundy, I have a mix of 2 Riedel Vinums and 4 Spiegelau Vino Grande glasses. Then I have a smattering of Riedel Sauv Blanc glasses that I use for all whites.

I love the Somm Bordeaux glasses. The Burgundy ones are nice, but a real pain to use and keep clean. The Riedel Vinum Burgundy glasses would be perfect if they were larger.

The Riedel vinum are great for everyday wine. I guess for $20/stem, they damn well should be.

Any recommendations on my need to upgrade my chard glasses? Also, a water glass recommendation would be good. I really like the Schott Zwiesel stems the other blogger mentioned for water. Anytime I drink water out of them, I feel like I am in for fine dining. Other recs???

Thanks in advance....Jason
James Suckling
 —  May 21, 2009 3:58pm ET
I taste mostly from the Riedel Somm Chardonnay glass that was first designed in 1958. Otherwise, I use the Vinum Burgundy for Nebbiolo, Vinum Brunello for Brunello, and Vinum Port for VP. But I love using the Somm Bordeaux at home, but I am scared to death of breaking them!
Farhana Haque
Queens, NY —  May 21, 2009 7:32pm ET
James, had you not read any reviews of the food and service at this restaurant? Or did you just go for the chef?
Lorenzo Erlic
victoria canada —  May 21, 2009 9:03pm ET
On a serious note I have a pair of Riedel Scotch tumblers accompanying a JW Blue Label; also a pair of flutes from Nicholas Feuillate courtesy of the Palme's D'Or 1996 I was lucky to have. Legacies...How sweet they can be.
Jason Thompson
Foster City, CA —  May 21, 2009 9:04pm ET
Thanks for the info James. My next purchase will be 2-4 glasses of the Riedel Somm Chard. Do you really notice a difference drinking Brunello out of the Brunello glass vs the Somm Bordeaux or Vinum Bordeaux??? Also, what do you drink Pinot/Burgundy out of?
Matt Scott
Honolulu HI —  May 21, 2009 9:50pm ET
The Somm Bordeaux and the Somm Burgundy glasses are paramount while at home. I travel with the Vinum. Some call it the placebo effect, however, IT'S NOT. I'm with you James, Alan and Tom.
James Suckling
 —  May 22, 2009 5:10am ET
Farhana. I just went to the restaurant because my friend invited me... We still had fun despite no glasses and pretty mediocre food.
James Suckling
 —  May 22, 2009 5:12am ET
Jason. I don't see much difference drinking Brunello out of Bordeaux glass. Vinum Brunello is a Vinum Bordeaux glass that is cut a little shorter at the lip. The Vinum Burgundy I drink all Piedmont wines as well as Burgundies.
David T Hayes
Jersey City, NJ —  May 22, 2009 10:08am ET
James, how did Maynard's wines show? I am very interested to get my hands on some in the near future.
Andrew Bernardo
Halifax, Nova Scotia —  May 22, 2009 11:00am ET
Hi guys and gals. Where would you get a case to travel with stemware?-AB
Jamie Sherman
Sacramento —  May 22, 2009 12:30pm ET
I'm sorry, I agree with Jordan. I would feel like a real tool bringing my own glasses to a restaurant let alone travelling with a suitcase of glasses. Luggage is such a hassel already without bringing glasses. Yes, some glasses are inferior and it is disappointing that restaurants choose them but most likely if the glasses are inferior then so is the wine. Ultimately, the most important factor when drinking good wine is good company no matter the glass. If that's not good enough then a cold beer tastes good in about any glass.
James Suckling
 —  May 22, 2009 1:02pm ET
Jamie. I don't bring stemware to restaurants normally. But it was a bummer to drink some great wines from tumblers. Company was great though. I am not sure winemaker Cristiano Van Zeller liked drinking from a tumbler as well during the evening!
James Suckling
 —  May 22, 2009 1:04pm ET
David. I think Maynard's wines are really coming along nicely, particularly the reds. The whites I have always liked. I had a new Cabernet from 100 percent his Arizona fruit, and the wine showed impressive structure and fruit for a young wine. It was so clean and precise too.
Nick Larsen
Richmond, B.C. —  May 22, 2009 1:21pm ET
It's disappointing that more restaurants do not carry proper wine glasses, either quality glasses or even different shapes to accommodate different varietals. It's a point of annoyance with me especially when many bars go to the trouble to serving different beers in specific glassware ie Guinness goes in a Guinness glass.
Dennis D Bishop
Shelby Twp., MI, USA —  May 25, 2009 8:13am ET
I agree - wine out of a juice glass may be great for many (Italians come to mind), but not for me. I often carry an inexpensive plastic wine glass in my car and/or when I travel - actually it is more of a stemmed water glass, but works great in a pinch. I would never think of taking stemware into a restaurant, but for use in your hotel room, by a pool or hot tub, my wine glass is great.
Theodore Mukamal
NY, NY —  June 4, 2009 1:19am ET
Has anyone else had this problem?

I decant all reds at home and from a wide-mouthed decanter, the aromas are rich, open, and fully-expressive.

However, when I pour most any red into a riedel bordeaux glass the aromas from the glass are hollow, disjointed, less expressive, than from the decanter--90% of the time!

I think riedel is a superior product, but I am consistently disappointed in my personal use of it. What do you all think?

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