Does the Proper Wine Glass Matter?

YES IT DOES!!! I was very fortunate to be included in a private San Francisco Riedel Wine Glass tasting this week, which was led by 10th generation family member GEORG JOSEF RIEDEL.  I have always been a believer of drinking my wine out of proper glassware, but had never put the theory to test.  

There were about 75-100 of us participating, seated at long tables with three different sized/shaped empty wine glasses (Pinot – Hermitage – Cabernet/Bordeaux).  In front of each wine glass was a clear plastic 8oz glass, called a “joker,” each filled with 6 ounces of red wine.  There was also a bottle of still mineral water.  We began the tasting by pouring equal amounts of the water into each of the wine glasses.  Georg instructed us to drink the water out of glasses 1 – 3, and then asked us by a show of hands if we had a preference to any of the glasses with the water. 

Glass #1: Riedel Vinum XL (Pinot Noir)
Glass #2: Riedel Vinum XL (Syrah/Hermitage)
Glass #3: Riedel Vinum XL (Cabernet Sauvignon/Bordeaux)

I was surprised, and in total agreement with the majority, that the clear-cut favorite out of the 3 for drinking water was glass #3.  

Now it was on to the main event.  Georg instructed us to pour the wine from the plastic “joker” glass directly in front of glass #1 equally into glasses 1-3.  We were then instructed to twirl, smell, and taste the wine from glass #1, and repeat the same for the remaining 2 glasses.  Again, we were asked by a show of hands which glass was preferred for that particular wine.  Glass #1, the Riedel Vinum XL (Pinot Noir) was the overwhelming choice by a landslide.  The wine was revealed, and it was the beautiful 2008 Domain Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir.  

Again we were asked to pour the contents of the “joker” glass in front of glass #2, equally into each of the three freshly rinsed wine glasses.  We repeated the exercise of twirling, smelling, and tasting.  The majority of the hands were raised for glass #2 Riedel Vinum XL (Syrah/Hermitage), with a small percentage for #1.  The second wine was revealed and it was the 2007 Neyers Syrah Hudson Vineyard.  The third wine poured was the 2008 Dominus Estate, and again by overwhelming majority glass #3 Riedel Vinum XL (Cabernet Sauvignon/Bordeaux) was selected as the favorite.  

Throughout the tasting Georg Riedel kept referring to the Cabernet glass, which is their top selling red wine glass by far, as a “troublemaker” and that the glass had “zero tolerance” for any wines other than those made with Bordeaux varietals.  This was made abundantly clear when tasting the 2007 Neyers Syrah Hudson Vineyard out of the Cabernet glass.  The beauty of the wine was completely lost in the Cabernet glass, and an extraordinary wine was made to taste very ordinary.  If you’re going to choose just 1 red wine glass…make it a Syrah/Hermitage glass, as this is the very best vessel compromise for all red wines. Why Shape Matters: 

  • Grape varietal specific stemware features finely-tuned glass bowls consisting of 3 variables:  shape, size, and rim diameter.
  • Grape varietal specific stemware has to translate the “message” of wine to the human senses.  There are 4 sensations of wine.   

Bouquet: Grape varietal specific stemware is responsible for wine aroma (quality and intensity)
Texture: Grape varietal specific stemware highlights the exciting variable mouth feel of wine (watery, creamy, silky, velvety).
Flavor:  Grape varietal specific stemware creates balanced interaction between fruit, minerality, acidity and bitter components.
Finish:  Grape varietal specific stemware offers a pleasant, seamless, harmonious, long lasting aftertaste.   

My  Riedel Wine Glass tasting takeaway: 

  • One glass is not ideal for all styles of wines, and wine’s bouquet, taste, balance and finish are all affected by the glass it is consumed from.
  • The same wine will display completely different characteristics when served in different glasses.
  • These differences can be so great, that even experienced wine connoisseurs believe that they are tasting as many different wines as there are glasses.
  • RIEDEL has created shapes that specifically enhance a wine’s harmony and highlight its unique characteristics.
  • Grape varietals carry unmistakable flavor profiles in their DNA, which add to the importance of selecting the appropriate glass.