edited by Sue Courtney
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Murray Almond's "From the Left Island"
Are Real Riedel Glasses for Real?
Photo © Sue Courtney
One of the early things new wine lovers learn is the importance of the glass in enhancing the appreciation of wine. Anyone who's compared the flavour of wine from a straight-sided water tumbler to even a basic wine glass will be aware of the differences.
I have a few basics in what I look for in a decent wine glass, apart from wine that is.
In my view the best all-around basic glass is the International Tasting Glass, also know as ISO or XL-5 glass (2nd to right in photo above). These can be found widely for less than $5 per glass, just check them for a cut rim before purchase. They present the wine well and the odd breakage can be worn without too many tears.
The Riedel Rave
Riedel developed and refined the concept that different shaped glasses were suited to grape varieties, styles, and even the age of wines. That it is to say that the bowl shape that best suited a Pinot Noir was different to that which suited a Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz. Prior to this most glassware manufacturers had a range limited to Red Wine, White Wine, Sparkling and Port.
Here Riedel came along with ranges including 4 sparkling glasses, wine for young and aged Bordeaux, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Grand Cru Burgundy, as well as distinct glasses for wine like Montrachet and Sauternes distinct from other similar styles of wine.
Riedel has three main ranges of glassware, the premium "Sommeliers" range, with prices to over $100 per stem, the mainstream "Vinum" range and the "budget" Overture range. Most wine lovers who own Riedels stick with the Vinum's, which has a good range of glasses for the individual styles.
So What's In A Riedel Glass? (apart from the wine)
Being a bit of a sceptic myself I've done a couple of tests over time to see whether the Riedels can cut the mustard, in other words, can we separate the wineglass from the wank?. In both cases they came through.
Trial One: the Wine Geek
So I assembled the following glasses:
Riedel glasses used in the trial - images from the Riedel website.
I poured the same wine, masked, from a decanter into each glass. TGD then tasted the wine from all glasses and gave his pronouncement as to which glass presented the wine best, and then the exercise was repeated with a different wine. The two wines presented were a Penfolds Bin 28 Shiraz, and then a Stoniers Reserve Pinot Noir, from Victoria's Mornington Peninsula.
In both cases the appropriate Riedel glass presented the respective wine. The Pinot showed most character from the Vinum Pinot glass and likewise for the Shiraz in the Vinum shiraz glass.
The academic purists among you may say that this result was skewed by the subject, being a wine geek, was already being predisposed to the results by some familiarity to the shapes of the glasses. So I decided to repeat the experiment.
Trial Two: The Bunny
He studiously went down the range of glasses and identified the correct Riedel Glassware match to the Grape Variety from those presented. In this case it was a Cabernet and a Chardonnay, so it was not a case of 'biggest glass best".
Results, and a Surprise
These results surprised me and provide further endorsement for my recommendation for the ISO Tasting Glass as the best everyday glass.
You are paying a price premium for the Riedel Range, especially in the top Sommeliers range, however there is value to be found with careful glass selection.
Having said all that I have a great soft spot for the Riedel Sommelier's Vintage Champagne Glass (400/28) which I think is the most beautiful glass I've come across of any type. Sometimes there more in a wine glass than just the wine.
© Murray Almond
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