What does you wine glass say about you? Does it say "I like the finer things in life"? Does it say "I know my wine"? If you prefer a flute then you are looking for streams of fine bubbles. If you tend towards a coupe or the shape of Marie Antoinette's breast, then you are looking for fun. If it's unique shape for each grape variety then congrats - you appreciate the sensual elements of wine. If it's generic suiting all wine and washable in the dishwasher, then way to save money and time. For the record, here is my short take on wine glasses.
Why I love wine glasses!
Wine glasses create an experience - sometimes a memory. Holding a fine glass, blown and delicate in my hand, with a shiny clear bowl and thin stem, feels like I've arrived someplace special. This same glass, with it's pursed lip, let's the wine flow - destined for me alone - offering flavours and texture as it washes over my tongue with a gentle stream of clues, as I continue the exploration of tasting. Swish and ponder, swish and ponder. The right glass makes the experience of tasting almost inevitably glutinous because the senses ask to taste again and again.
Does the glass influence wine?
The question is - does the glass influence the experience? I think you and I would both agree that of course it does. Haven't we all had that thick, small round, no room to swirl, standard glass that holds red or white regardless, flop wine into your mouth and may on your lap? It lacks elegance but is sturdy and possibly shatterproof and worthy of it's thrifty proprietor. Or even worse, the 4 oz tumbler that was hip a few decades ago, but now just obnoxious. There is no finesse at $15 a glass. Why not drink straight from the bottle or better yet a straw? Tumblers won't break either, but wine is obviously not the focus of this experience. So yes, the glass does matter in the experience of tasting wine.
Riedel like the Needle!
Damn that Riedel! I was living in my simple glassware bubble until I sat down to a tasting with four very differently shaped glasses and four very different styles of wine. To be sure, I did bring my own ISO tasting glasses because - after all - I was a trained wine professional and I was sure this was a marketing ploy.
Leave it to the Austrians to take wine glasses and create a world class business out of precision and detail. This is a company that is 265 years old and now have a glass specifically for sipping Dom Perignon. Genius!
Four wines were poured into four separate Performance glasses. The glasses - white (Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and I would also use this one for bubbles), Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon - were filled with their respective styles of wine. At the precise time, each style was tasted and I doubled down with my ISO comparison alongside the actual tasting. Should I go into detail? I'm going to cut to the chase. For Christmas I bought two sets of the four and shared the pleasure with a wine lover close to my heart. It's a real delight to have these glasses in my wine rack.
What's the problem?
The challenge now? I'm spoiled. Wine should be served like this at every occasion. Having said that, I'm also down a few hundred and sadly these glasses break easily. I don't have a full set left. Not only that but it's also a labor of love to keep these beauties sparkling. Hand wash in very hot water, drip dried and then polish with a linen cloth.
What's the alternative?
To be honest, I like to travel with my wine glasses so I bought the O to Go white wine glass. It comes in a relatively break proof container and it fits in my carry on. I find that in a pinch it still offers me the lip thin rim, but no stem. I can swirl even though holding this cupped in my hands is a no no. It's definitely not as elegant as where this story started.
Where to find Riedel?
It seems like Riedel is everywhere. I found my O to Go at a gift shop. These glasses were discounted likely because no one really knew what was inside. The Performance 4 packs, from the original tasting experience, were purchased at Legacy Liquor Store. Most private wine stores carry Riedel and competition is growing all with fairly unpronounceable names like Schott Zwiesel, Zalto Denk'Art and Libbey Vineyards. Even Jancis Robinson has her own line of glasses. Whatever you decide, I recommend tasting wine using a couple of different styles until you find the one that suits you. Until then - happy sipping!