Sunday, January 27, 2008

Glassware

Since Alec asked about glassware I thought I would let him know what I found
out in Anchorage this week since our company is now the distributor for
Riedel glassware to restaurants in Alaska.

I have to admit that I was a bit of a skeptic coming into this. Now I might
not be a true believer but I have to say that I am convinced that different
shapes of glassware definitely can enhance the flavor of certain wines.

The first misconception that was cleared up for me was the pronunciation.
It is "REE-dull" as in "needle" and that is exactly what they told us at the
presentation. The Riedel family is Austrian and they have been in the glass
business for over 250 years although they did not start making wine glasses
until 1957. They do bring that Teutonic attention to detail to the
business.

Here is how the demonstration that they did for us worked:

We sat down with four different styles of glassware. There was a
Chardonnay/Meursault glass with Trefethen Chardonnay, a Riesling/Sauvignon
Blanc glass with Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc (and boy is that wine tasty), a
Burgundy glass with Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir and a Cabernet/Merlot glass
with Larkmead Cabernet Sauvignon. There was also an average "restaurant"
wine glass in front of us.

We then proceeded to taste the wines in the Riedel glass first and then in
the "joker" glass and the difference is fairly dramatic. The shape of the
glass concentrates the more pleasing and most "varietal" aromas and flavors
to your nose and palate.

The next step was to pour the wines from their "correct" glasses into one of
the other shapes (i.e. put the Chardonnay in the Riesling glass) and taste
the difference.

The glasses are also designed so that the lip of the glass is very thin and
does not have any sort of roll on the lip that might prevent the wine from
going directly into your mouth. This may sound a little strange but if you
run your fingers over your average restaurant wine glass there will be just
the slightest bulge right at the rim and the Riedel folks trim every single
one of their glasses with a laser to eliminate that bulge.

The power of suggestion is pretty strong but I sat through this twice; once
with our staff and once with a group of customers and I believe that there
is something to the shape of the glass making the wine taste better.

A couple of other points...

The Reidel folks specifically state that their glassware will not make poor
wine taste better. What they say is that it will make good wine taste
better. It's a bit of a fine distinction but what they said is that if you
put crappy wine in one of their glasses not only will it not taste better
but it is more likely to bring out the flaws and it might even make it taste
worse.

Even if you think that all of this is smoke and mirrors you have to give the
family credit for being incredibly good at marketing. I doubt if anyone
reading this had to Google Riedel to see what I was talking about. They
have built a reputation as the premiere producer of wine glasses in the
world and they can back that reputation up. If you go into a restaurant and
find that they are taking the time (the glasses should be hand polished
before every use) and expense of using Riedel it does make a statement that
the restaurant is taking wine seriously.

And if you still can't taste the difference between wine out of a Reidel
glass and a Libby glass you have to admit that the Reidel glassware is
exceedingly well made and beautiful to look at.

They also produce a tumbler wine glass without a stem. Some see this an
anathema but guess what? It is now their second best selling product. I
would be more than happy to drink my wine in a glass without a stem if I
could stick it in the dishwasher later and be confident that I would break
less over the course of a couple of years.

Hopefully this answers the questions and if not put it on the blog.

1 comment:

Alec said...

Thanks John. They have a great website http://www.wineglassguide.com/ where you can choose your wine and they will tell you what glass you need. What's your take on the stemless? I have heard that the stemless glass is a bad choice because the heat of your hand will alter the temperature of the wine. I know your first thought is to say that means they're just drinking too slowly, but what would be your second thought?