Up until last year, I never stopped to consider which wine glass might be most appropriate for the current wine I was pouring. I had a mismatched mélange of wine glasses in the cupboard, and I usually grabbed whatever glass was closest at hand to serve as a casual vessel for the Viognier, Zinfandel, or (gasp) sparkling wine I happened to be serving that evening.
But that all changed when I attended a Riedel wine glass seminar.
Crafted by the Austrian-based Riedel company, internationally-renowned Riedel wine glasses are each designed to showcase the specific personality of a particular varietal wine. Riedel’s motto is “the content commands the shape,” and each of the company’s glasses has a different bowl shape and size, and distinct style of rim.
Each grape varietal is different, Maximilian Riedel explained during the seminar. Therefore, some wines are fruitier than others, some are more acidic, others have higher alcohol, milder or greater “minerality,” or an abundance (or lack) of tannins. In order for consumers to optimally enjoy a particular wine, he explained, it must be delivered to the palate – by the glass – in the correct “flow pattern” to the correspondingly optimal sections of the tongue (tip, sides, center and back) that detect sweetness, bitterness, sourness and saltiness.
Simply put, if the wine is delivered correctly to the palate (via the “right” wine glass), it should taste great; if it’s delivered by the “wrong” glass, it will taste yucky. This proved to be shockingly true during the seminar.
We sampled four wines (Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon) in Riedel glasses designed specifically for those varietals, appreciatively snuffling their fragrance (“It’s like a perfume,” exclaimed Riedel of the Riesling – “you want to wear it on your skin!”) and savoring their complex, delicious flavors. We then sampled the same wines from the “wrong” glasses. They tasted yucky. The silky Chardonnay, when sipped from its custom-designed glass, burst with ripe, lush aromas and flavors of apples, pears and tropical fruit. The wine was transformed, however, when sampled from a Riesling glass – suddenly, we were assaulted by an alcoholic “heat” in the nose after swirling the wine, and the gorgeous aromas were gone – the wine was very dry on the palate and elicited unpleasant descriptors from Riedel and the audience such as “short,” “rough” and “bitter”. It was hard to believe that the same wine could taste so different coming from two different glasses, but the proof was on my palate.
Wine lovers eager to experience this intriguing and very educational event are in luck: The Riedel folks are coming back to Sacramento in February to present a second seminar. This is one you won’t want to miss.
Date: February 28, 2012
Time: 6:30 PM – 9:00 PM
Location: Arden Hills Resort, Club & Spa, 1220 Arden Hills Lane, Sacramento
Cost: $75 per person. Price includes seminar, set of four Riedel Vinum tasting glasses and post-presentation hors d’oeuvres (crafted by local restaurants including Il Fornaio, Tuli Bistro and The Firehouse).
For more information, visit www.sacnace.com