Time for new glasses



Time for new glasses

The story of Riedel and their specialised range of glasses has become the subject of many dinner conversations.  To put you in the loop, Austrian company, Riedel, set out to design a glass for every single cultivar.  These glasses claim to honour the cultivar by ensuring that the aromas are optimal and that the wine hits exactly the right spot on the tongue when drinking it. Does it work? Does it matter?  Not being able to afford a whole range of Riedel glasses we set out to test the theory with a few more modest models.

Roping in the members of one of my favourite wine clubs, we decided to taste 4 different wines from 3 different glasses.  The glasses we chose was the international tasting glass, a wide rimmed wine glass that you might find on most dinner tables and a normal water drinking glass.  It very soon became clear that the normal drinking glass was useless at keeping all the lovely aromas together and acted more like a chimney.  This resulted in a less enjoyable tasting experience all around and highlighted once again the importance of employing all the senses when appraising wines.  Another interesting observation was that there is a definite perceived enjoyment factor associated with drinking from a crystal glass as opposed to a normal glass glass.  The thinner rim and all over feel of sophistication definitely added to the enjoyment of the experience.

Focusing on the two remaining glasses we explored why conventional wisdom favors bigger, wider rimmed glasses for red wines and the smaller, narrower counterparts for white wines.  It all comes down to the aromas emitted by the wines and the surface area exposed to the air.  White wines have more elegant and subtle aromas and the smaller glasses tend to concentrate these allowing for a better appreciation while sniffing and sipping. Red wines are typically more complex and require some interaction with the air in order to fully develop to the stage where the aromas compliment the taste. This is especially true for wines that has spent some time in casks.  This became apparent when someone who does not like wooded chardonnays suddenly found that it was a lot more enjoyable when served a glass reserved for red wines.  The bigger glass softened the wooded undertones to a point where it was not overpowering.

Another interesting find was that different shaped glasses forces the wine to connect with a different space in your mouth.  Remember the biology class where the teacher explained how your taste buds are spaced around the mouth – sweet in front, sour and salty on the side and bitter in the back?  Apparently, the shape of a wine glass plays right into the science of taste bud placement by delivering the wines to the exact spot where it will be most appreciated… Thanks science!

So next time you are feeling a bit bored, or when you have your know-it-all-about-wine cousin coming over – grab a few different glasses, a few bottles of wine and do some of your own exploring.


Tanya Liebenberg

All stories by: Tanya Liebenberg