I’m going to come out with it, we were all skeptics going into this tasting. I especially was because just a week earlier a good friend of mine had asked me about the importance of proper wines glasses, and I essentially told her to buy something nice but multifunctional in a Bordeaux style, tumbler, and flute. And while those will be fine for everyday use, I am now retracting my response that those are all that you need, especially if you are drinking exceptional wines and spirits on a regular basis (as I’m sure you are).
Through Wine Warehouse, Riedel conducted a wine tasting highlighting six of their glasses versus a standard restaurant wine glass, nicknamed the “Joker” glass. Through a series of four wines and two spirits we were to swirl, sniff, taste and then rotate through the series (ie the first wine then went into the Joker for comparison and so on). Me and nine of my cohorts sat and tried our best to follow directions.
The first wine to taste was a 2007 Georg Breuer Rheingau Riesling out of the Vinum Extreme Sauvignon Blanc/Riesling glass. Riedel’s commitment to form and function was apparent immediately in the weight and size of the glass as well as the laser cut lip that results in the finest and thinnest rim. In the Riedel glass the Riesling came across voluptuous and nuanced with white peaches and granite instantly apparent on the nose. Tasting it the wine was at once sweet then followed by a balancing acidity and incredible texture. Pouring some of the wine into the “Joker” glass you had to burry your nose in it to get anything. When the wine hit our mouths it became flabby and unbalanced as a result of going straight to the side of the tongue where the concentration of the “tart” taste buds are. It sincerely does not taste like the same wine. Okay, I can see where we’re going with this, but I’m not convinced.
Next up was a 2008 Fernand & Laurent Pillot Chassagne –Montrachet out of a Chardonay “O” tumbler. According to our Riedel spokesman oaked Chardonnay are best drunk out of a wide mouthed glass, and unoaked Chardonnay are best drunk out of a closed mouth glass. While he explained that there is no need for concern about transferring heat with the tumbler style glass because, A: the natural tendency is to set down a tumbler, and B: you are only holding the glass with three fingers. Ha! Not with my little hands. And it felt like I was staring into a fish bowl. Again we repeated the swirl, sniff, and sip. The wine was beautiful, nuanced, and classic Montrachet. In the “Joker” glass it was completely muted and bitter. You could feel the wine being delivered directly under the tongue. To switch things up we pored the Riesling into the Montrachet glass and the Montrachet into the Riesling glass. The results were astounding. The Montrachet now became all about the minerality and the Riesling became soft and without peaks of flavor.
Onto the Reds. The Riedel Pinot Noir XL, a wide bowl with a curved out rim, was filled with an unbelievable 2007 Alex Gambal Chambolle-Musigny “Les Charmes”. This started out at the tip of the tongue with ripe cranberry followed by a chain of flavors, violets, smoke, a touch of oak, and distinctive minerality. Simply, a stunning wine. In the “Joker” the wine was absolutely ruined. It was stemmy, bitter, and you really had to work to detect anything on the nose. It was absolutely shocking that this was the same wine I’d moments ago fallen in love with.
The last wine was a 2006 Monbousquet, the relative of Chateau Pavie, in the Bordeaux Vinum Extreme, a line designed specifically for New World Wines. Primarily Merlot from the Right Bank, the fruit and oak were perfectly married with deep dark red fruit, pencil shavings, and “unresolved tannins.” In the “Joker” It was all tannin and alcohol, nothing else. What a disappointment.
We finished with a surprise spirits tasting. Come on, really? These fancy glasses are supposed to make my fancy hooch taste that much better? I’ve tasted these spirits on several occasions, and out of really good glasses. But the Le Reviseur XO Petite Champagne Cognac ABSOLUTELY sung in this cognac glass! For me the jury has always been out about Cognacs and Armagnacs. Yes, they were good, and I could appreciate and recognize a great one, but really, were they worth all of the money? This tasting, out of this glass, proved that they were worth the hype. Next we tried a 10 year Benromach from Speyside. The whiskey bloomed out of the single malt glass and coated the palate with a caramel richness mingled with smoke. Both spirits in the “Joker” glass were hotter, higher in acid, and completely different! I was so excited about this particular revelation I called my husband, told him to get our best Single Malt and Armagnac out of the bar and be ready to have his mind blown. I set it up the same way, one Cognac glass, one Single Malt glass, and the closest thing to a restaurant glass that I could find. He was honest. He told me he thought I was crazy, that this was something only a wine geek could pick up on. But, wait for it, he said that “I was completely right!” Score! Now to convince him that we’ll need an entire new set of glassware.
Conclusively I’ve learned that it is nearly impossible to give a full assessment of a wine or spirit out of an improper glass, it is also nearly impossible to fully appreciate the wine or spirit out of an improper glass. And now I would readily give up every other bottle of indulgent wine or spirit in order to afford and properly enjoy them in the correct glasses and to take my time truly savoring every nuance that they have to offer. I implore you to try this for yourself, find a varietal or spirit that you are truly in love with and buy its matching glass. Compare it to the glass that you’ve been using at home and draw your own conclusions. As for me I’ve gotten my hands on the ones that I will be using for special bottles, and might even consider bringing them to restaurants with me…