I recently attended a glass tasting organised by famous Austrian glass manufacturer, Riedel, hosted by Georg Riedel. I had never been to one before so was quite intrigued to see what it’s all about. I do like experimenting with glassware and have often found that wine tastes different in different types of vessel. Back in the days when I studied for the WSET diploma, we were forced to blind taste wine out of tiny ISO glasses. I have always hated those as I find they mute the potential of a wine. Recently I have become a fan of Zalto, much like many of my peers in the wine trade. The thin glass, elegant shape and the subtle way the liquid enters your mouth really does make for a superior drinking experience. So I was looking forward to discovering what Riedel had in store for us.
We were treated to a preview of 3 new wine glasses from the ‘Veritas’ range aimed at particular styles of wine and also sampled the new Riedel coke glass.
The 3 Veritas glasses were: New world Pinot Glass (1), Old World Syrah (2) and New World Cabernet (3).
The tasting began with water. I know! I was hoping the water would turn into wine once poured into the glasses but to my disappointment they do not possess magical powers (just as well, that would be a rather dangerous prospect). The water was there to illustrate the way liquid enters your mouth from different types of glass. The flow of water from the New World Pinot glass, which has a slightly curved top, was towards the front of the mouth. The Syrah glass has a much smaller opening at the top, which forces you to tilt your head back and thereby allowing the liquid to flow further back into the mouth. The New World Cabernet glass is wide at the top and allows the liquid to glide across the mid-palate. Ok, got it. So far so good, we were all nodding our heads in agreement.
Next, we were going to taste wine, finally! First up, a Central Otago Pinot Noir from New Zealand. It certainly showed the best tasted out of the glass it was intended to be served in (1). Glass 1 showed the wine’s balance and soft tannin but also accentuated its sweet red fruit. Glass 2, on the other hand, showed more earthy, spicy characters and darker fruit. We were told by Georg Riedel that the Pinot taste from glass 2 should be more salty. Well of course it was, after he’d said that! I am not convinced how objective a tasting is when you’re being told what to taste! I noted that the wine tasted more Syrah-like, diminishing the Pinot’s prettiness. Glass 3 performed poorest, making the Pinot taste alcoholic and acidic. New world Pinot our of a New World Pinot glass = easy marks!
On our table, next to the glasses, was a collection of chocolates which were apparently going to be a perfect match with each wine. Mr. Riedel was convinced that the white chocolate with vanilla was a perfect match with the Pinot. Personally I don’t think white chocolate goes with any wine, no matter how hard you try. I could not get its taste out of my mouth and it really killed the wine for me. Just did not work.
Next wine was a Crozes Hermitage from Guigal. Tasted out of glass 3, it was dull with top heavy oak and more frontal flavours. Tasted from glass 1, it showed more fruit but also more acid, which skewered the balance. Glass 2 was, predictably, the best glass for it, showing black fruit, spice and pepper, all hallmarks of a classic Northern Rhone Syrah. This wine was paired with dark chilli chocolate. Again, I did not think this pairing worked. The chocolaty character is often more pronounced in New World Syrah, which I think would be a more appropriate match.
Lastly, we tasted a rather good Napa Valley Cabernet from Silver Oak. Tasted from glass 1, the wine showed everything, oak, acid, alcohol, tannins….lots of tannins. The wine looked showy and overworked. Glass 2 brought flavours of chocolate but more of an alcohol burn. Again the most appropriate glass, 3, worked the best. The open top allowed the more volatile notes to escape, showing a balanced if rich wine. This Cabernet was paired with plain dark chocolate….and it worked! Rich, chocolaty wine + chocolate = bingo. What I’ve been thinking all along.
Last but not least we were treated to a Coca Cola tasting. This was quite entertaining. Firstly we poured some coke into a plastic cup. The bubbles clearly stuck to the side of the cup though the wine actually tasted less bubbly. Next, we poured it into the new thin Riedel Coke glass. No bubbles sticking to the side of the glass but more fizz in the mouth! Well there you go, if you see bubbles sticking to a glass, it means you may be losing out on the fizzy sensation in your mouth. I have learned something new!
After the masterclass, Riedel very generously allowed us to take the glasses home. I have since given the New World Pinot glass another trial. Last weekend I opened a rather lovely bottle of 2009 Morey-St-Denis from Domaine Dujac. Given the ripeness of the 2009 vintage I thought the wine could stand up to the glass. But just to be sure, I also tried it from a standard Riedel Burgundy glass and a Zalto Bordeaux glass. The round Burgundy glass gave the best result! I am hoping to give the Syrah glass a trial tomorrow, when I plan to open a bottle of Cornas. One has to keep on experimenting!
Whilst I did not need convincing that glassware makes a difference, I do like it to be proved to me. And proved it was.
Lenka (The Evil Monkey)