Having just got back from the Wine Bloggers Conference 2009 in Santa Rosa California where I sipped, drank and spit over 300 different wines from over 200 wineries between Napa county, Sonoma county and Portugal. I am convinced that it makes a big difference as to what kind of glass the wine is poured into. We were fortunate enough to have had the sponsor of Riedel glass at the conference, so all the wine that we tried were poured into the Riedel “O” glass (no stem). This was a perfect glass for all the tasting we were doing. It doesn’t have the stem, which keeps your hands from warming up the wine, but when you are dealing with hundreds of people going through hundreds bottles of wine, this worked out the best for this situation. They are so easy to fit into the dishwasher and are hard to knock over and break.
Claus Joseph Riedel who was born in Austria and passed away this past March at 79, will always be remembered as the man who revolutionized the wine glass. He transformed what was an earmark social status and aesthetic discernment to a serious tool for the dedicated wine connoisseur. Riedel, a ninth generation glassmaker, began rethinking and reinventing the shapes of the stemware back in the fifties. By the time Riedel died his company was making 40 precisely engineered glasses for all kinds of wines and spirits in its flagship hand-blown Sommeliers range.
Kathleen Talbert, who heads her own New York public relations firm and represents several top-tier vintners says, “My first choice is always Riedel”. “The quality of the stemware and the designated glasses for different varietals truly enhance the appreciation of any wine. Using proper stemware is as important to the wine experience as serving the wine at the proper temperature”. Talbert always inquires at the restaurant as to the brand of wineglass it has. If she is not satisfied then she asks if she can bring her own glassware.
Once you have the right glass it is important not to over pour the wine, something restaurants tend to do in a rush to make you finish the bottle. You need to swirl wine in your glass with sufficient room to aerate it beyond the limited exposure it receives while in transit from bottle to glass. The capacity, height, and balance of Riedel’s shapes are ideal for just that.
In your home you could be easily satisfied with having 5 different styles of Riedel glasses. For the perfect drinking set you will want two glasses for reds, Bordeaux and Burgundy, two for whites, Montrachet and Chablis, and one for dessert (port and late harvest). If you drink mostly red wine for example you could get away with two glasses for the red and only one glass for the white.
The Riedels’ mid-priced Vinum line, which are machine-made instead of hand-blown are four times less expensive. You should be able to get a glass for about $25.00 as opposed to $100.00. The contrast in quality seems negligible in terms of the price. They also go into the dishwasher just great which is especially nice if you are hosting a multiple-wine dinner.
In the end it all comes down to an informed personal taste.