riedel rides again

Sunday, April 28, 2013

I’m not going to revive the endless debate about whether or not Riedel’s brilliant marketing of individual wine glasses for every type of grape and wine is just a scam, or has some validity. But when a new Riedel design is released, I enjoy testing it out. In fact, when any new wine glass design is circulated, by anyone, I am intrigued. Most of them don’t work for me. But occasionally, a really terrific design comes along, and that becomes my stemware of choice, not just for a single type of wine, but for a whole range of wines. That is what has happened with the Riedel Malbec glass.

Argentine’s Graffigna winery and Riedel have introduced a new design purportedly developed to accurately display the quality and flavors inherent in Malbec wines. It was officially introduced on Malbec World Day (who knew?) on April 17. A sample of the stemware arrived with a bottle of Graffigna (big, jammy and quite tasty) and I’ve been trying it out.

I have to say I love the look of it. Does it make Malbec better? Not really. The debate over Riedel has gone on for decades, and generally focuses on the wrong question. Does a particular glass make the wine taste different? Absolutely! You don’t need Riedel to see for yourself. Line up any 6 glasses from your cupboard – whatever you have, as long as they are different. Toss a tumbler in there, a coffee cup, whatever. Pour a decent (not plonk, not brilliant) wine in all 6 and give it a little breathing time. Then go through them. The wine will absolutely taste different in every glass. But better? That's highly subjective.

So as I evaluate the Malbec glass, I am looking for other things. Do I like the way it looks, feels, shows the color of the wine? Yes! Does it favor aromatics? This new Malbec glass, the press release notes, “has been designed to enhance the fruit aromas, specifically the red and black berries that are undoubtedly Malbec’s key attributes, floral and spice tones are underlined as well.” I can’t argue. It’s a really nice glass.

Quite honestly, I’ve had trouble finding a good all-purpose wine glass for the dinner table. I have plenty of different styles for when I’m wine tasting, but when I’m setting the table for a dinner party I like to give everyone a single glass that will serve for the entire evening. I’ve spent way too much money on fancy-ass stemware that tosses the wine up your nose if you put the glass down too quickly; and sets of glasses designed for one grape or another that don’t work for anything else. I don’t like “extreme” stemware, or stems with stubby feet or no feet at all.

So I have high hopes that this new one will prove to be, over the long haul, as good as it now seems. Other critics have weighed in on the new design with mixed opinions. But for the price (around $11) I like it a lot. I suspect it will probably do just fine with most other reds, including Burgundies.

Where do you get it? Here’s one web-based mail-in offer, but you have to purchase the wine to order the glasses. What if you just want the glasses!?!?! If you are a retailer selling them, please send me a note! I'm a customer.


The Sommeliere said...

Every insecure wine newbie buys a different glass for each variety. I am waiting till Riedel or some other marketer comes out with TWO different glasses for Syrah and Shiraz!

I tell the students in my wine classes to get a good, inexpensive glass at a Cork & Barrel, World Market or other shop and spend the money on better wine.

Bob Henry said...


From Gourmet “Drinks” Section
(August 2004, Page 72ff):

“Shattered Myths;
Expensive crystal? Coffee mug? Jelly jar?
Does it really matter what you drink your wine from?”

[Link: http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/2000s/2004/08/shattered_myths]

By Daniel Zwerdling

This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. . . . We’re about to answer a question that’s asked innumerable times in wine stores and upscale restaurants and at our own dinner tables across America: Do glasses really change the way wines taste and smell?


From the Los Angeles Times “Food” Section
(November 29, 1996, Page Unknown):

“Glass Consciousness”

[Link: http://articles.latimes.com/print/1996-11-29/food/fo-4133_1_wine-glass]

By Matt Kramer

Riedel Vinum Gourmet glasses ($6.95) -- Perhaps the most overlooked element in enjoying wine is putting it in a decent glass. Yet the matter gets blank stares. Worse, it gets subjected to a kind of huffy anti-elitism: I can enjoy my wine in any old glass. True enough. But wouldn't it be possible, even likely, that some wine glass shapes enhance wines more than other shapes?

The answer: You bet. The time is long overdue for wine fanciers (and the worst offenders of all, restaurateurs) to take their wine glasses in hand--and throw them out.

The old junk glasses should be replaced with Riedel (pronounced REE-dle) Vinum Gourmet glasses. Georg Riedel is an Austrian glassmaker who specializes in creating an ever-broadening array of wine glasses for all sorts of wines. The assortment is fast approaching the nonsensical. His approach, however, is solid and sensible.

Riedel offers several lines of glasses, all of exceptional quality. The Vinum line is Riedel's machine-made glasses. (The more expensive Sommeliers series are mouth-blown.) Numerous Vinum styles are available, nearly all with elegant long stems and lovely shapes. But Riedel recently came to grips with a fact of life: Those lovely long-stemmed glasses don't fit in most dishwashers. And most of us don't want to wash our wine glasses by hand.

Although Riedel would deny it, there is such a thing as an all-purpose wine glass. I know this for a fact because I once spent a week testing nearly every Riedel wine glass with every imaginable sort of wine. And the glass in which they all showed wonderfully was Riedel's Vinum Chianti Classico/Zinfandel glass, which has a deep, egg-shaped cup.

Riedel knows this too. So when he recently decided to create an all-purpose wine glass that would fit in dishwashers, he took the Chianti Classico/Zinfandel glass and simply whacked off the long stem. Now it fits in the dishwasher. The cup is the same depth and shape. The quality of the glass and its finishing are almost identical to those of the long-stemmed glasses.

Best of all, the price got whacked, too. The Vinum Chianti Classico/Zinfandel glass sells for $20. In comparison, the Vinum Gourmet glass sells for $6.95 a glass. No other all-purpose, high quality wine glass compares to this one for the money.

Riedel glasses are most easily found in wine shops. Recently, street prices on all Riedel glasses have become very competitive. Look for a 10-pack of the Gourmet glasses for as little as $50. Even the long-stemmed Chianti/Zinfandel glass can be found for as little as $11.99 if bought by the six-pack.

Bob Henry said...





From Wine Spectator Online
(posted February 22, 2005):

“A Clear Benefit for Wine;
Of all your wine paraphernalia, don't overlook [wine] glasses
-- they really make a difference”

[Link: http://static.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/A-Clear-Benefit-for-Wine_2407]

By James Laube

If you want to make all of your wines smell and taste better, there's an easy solution.

Make sure you're using top-flight stemware.

Good glasses help bring out the best in any wine. While it's true that wine, even great wine, can be enjoyed out of any vessel, you owe it to yourself to splurge on at least a couple of upscale glasses to taste what I mean. Once you do I'm sure you'll convert to a full dining set.

Many factors affect how any wine is appreciated. For example, the environment and the company you're drinking with both hold huge sway. I've enjoyed fabulous wines from tumblers in dimly lit motel rooms and sipped fantastic bottles from cheap plastic cups sitting around smoky fires in high Sierra campgrounds.

At home, I use Riedel and Spiegelau glasses (which you can easily order online), and to simplify matters I've narrowed it down to two -- the Vinum Bordeaux and Vinum Chardonnay/Pinot Noir glasses. I've yet to find a table wine that didn't perform well in one or the other.

But at my office in Napa, for official Wine Spectator blind tastings, I use an old favorite. It's not very pretty, but it's effective. It's a bowl-shaped, stemless glass with a small punt at the bottom, and an indentation for the thumb on the side. It's called The Wine Taster Glass from a line of stemware known as Les Impitoyables. I always use this glass, and have for decades.

As best I can remember, I learned about this glass in the early 1980s. Back then, it seemed like every winemaker I visited had a set (this was before Riedel made a huge splash and sold stemware to wineries). Many winemakers, in Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone Valley and California, recommended it because the shape of the glass was designed to maximize the taster's perception of the aromas in the wine in the shortest possible amount of time. Winemakers said they preferred it to other stemware because it helped highlight possible defects.

It was also said that the glass name -- impitoyables -- stood for merciless (actually a more literal translation from French is pitiless), because it showed no mercy for any wine and highlighted everything in the glass -- especially, and perhaps most importantly, flaws such as Brettanomyces, volatile acidity or TCA taint.

While most wineries now use classy stemware to showcase their wines, I've stuck with the Impitoyable because it has served me well. Part of it is habit and there might be a little superstition. But a lot of it is a belief in the value of consistency, using the same glass for every wine, week in, week out.

When you're tasting wine, or better yet, critiquing it, you want to eliminate as many variables as possible. While you can't change the weather, you should go into every tasting well-rested, taste early in the day, always spit, try to taste in the same environment (office or room) each time and, I've found, use the same glass.

The Impitoyable isn't very attractive for dinner parties. It's small, with a narrow opening at the top and awkward to hold. But with its narrow opening and design, it does highlight wine aromas better than any glass I've used. That's why I've stuck with it for all these years.

Post a Comment

Your comment is awaiting moderation and will be posted ASAP. Thanks!