At the first seminar of the New World Wine Experience, the very first sip of wine everyone took was from a plain plastic cup, at the direction of a self-described “crazy Austrian glassmaker.” Georg Riedel—whose family has a centuries-long history of producing fine glass—used the cup to prove a point as he and his son Maximilian demonstrated the impact that proper stemware can have on wine’s taste. “Nothing can add or take away from wine, but we can alter the perception,” said Georg.
Participants compared the taste of two wines in Riedel Vinum XL series Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon glasses, as well as in a plain plastic cup. (The Vinum XL series was launched in 2009 and was particularly intended for New World wines.) The results were striking; each wine showed markedly better in the glass designed for its variety, while the plastic cup eliminated the aromas and minimized flavors.
Maximilian Riedel discusses how the Cabernet’s profile changes in the Bordeaux glass.
The Erath Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Estate Selection 2006 (91 points, $32) from Oregon offered cherry, berry and floral aromas in the Burgundy glass, but tasted green and stemmy in the Bordeaux glass. The Sbragia Family Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley Monte Rosso Vineyard 2005 (90, $50) was full of dark fruit and spice notes, but lost its fruit profile and showed heightened alcohol in the Burgundy glass.
When tasting, Georg and Max analyze four aspects—fruit, minerality, acidity and bitterness—and each Riedel variety-specific glass is designed to accentuate certain of those elements in the corresponding wines. For example, the Burgundy glass has a slight lip at the rim, pointing the wine to the area of the tongue where tastebuds pick up sweeter, ripe-fruit qualities.
Summing up the necessity of different glasses for different grape varieties and wine styles, Max quipped, “You cannot play a round of golf with just one club.”