Recently, the charming Georg Riedel, the 10th generation of the family to run the 300 year old glass company, conducted a seminar here in Toronto showcasing 3 Riedel glasses from the XL Restaurant line of stemware. Georg Riedel joined the family business in 1979 and turned the firm into a world-wide operating company. Riedel has since become the world’s leading wine glass company. In 2004, Riedel bought glass companies Spiegelau and Nachtmann, operating all three companies under the umbrella ‘Riedel Glass Works’. Riedel now produces 50 million pieces a year – not all is stemware. Riedel wine glasses lead the way for fine wine to be appreciated.
At the seminar, Mr. Riedel stated that while the wine glass may be a “small mosaic stone” in a restaurant, establishments need to pay more attention to the glassware they serve their wines in. Wine is, after all, where restaurants make most of their money. And yet, many put their wine in just about anything. The wrong wine glass can not only dull the complexities of the wine but some can actually make the wine taste…well…bad. The right wine glass for the specific varietal or blend can highlight the characteristics of that varietal, and even soften tannins and acidity. Many may think this is a bunch of baloney, but after tasting different wines in different glasses, I, for one, am converted…Georg is very persuasive.
The following are highlights from the seminar:
Each glass designed for Riedel is not just about aesthetics (although they are lovely to look at too). The shape has a specific purpose for each style of wine they are intended for. Much of what we enjoy in a wine has to do with scent. A scent is a molecule of a specific size and weight. When we smell a wine we are smelling the headspace of the glass where the molecules have been released into the air. A glass that tapers in at the top captures the aromas which can last for hours.
The enjoyment of a wine also has to do with mouthfeel. According to Mr. Riedel, mouthfeel is a combination of temperature and texture and the size and shape of the glass also has an impact on the mouthfeel of the wine. It has also been discovered that even water has a different mouthfeel in different glasses. Neslie is now working with Riedel to design a line of water glasses. Mr. Riedel also stressed that red wine should be served at 16 degrees Celsius. The wine will then slowly warm up in the glass, releasing different aromas at different temperatures and increasing the perceived complexity of the wine.
The different glasses in the XL Restaurant line, and all Riedel’s varietal glasses, have unique shapes that influence how the wine flows onto your palate. For example, the Pinot Noir glass has a slight lip on the rim making the wine flow in a narrow point onto the palate. The Cabernet glass causes the wine to flow in a much wider and rounder point, making the wine initially hit a larger part of you palate.
During the seminar, we tasted samples of Pinot Noir, a Syrah, and a Cabernet Sauvignon. Each wine was tasted in each of the 3 XL restaurant glasses – the Pinot Noir glass, the Hermitage glass, and the Cabernet glass. Below are some notes on how the different wines tasted in each of the different glasses. Quite an eye-opening experience.
Pinot Noir in the Pinot Noir glass: Loads of red fruit, red berries, cherries. Very pleasant and balanced
Pinot Noir in the Hermitage glass: Much of the fruit is lost. The alcohol is much more evident. Aromas of tobacco, spice, and herbaceaousness. The wine is more acidic and tannic and the length is shorter.
Pinot Noir in the Cabernet glass: Most of the aromas are lost, only a yeasty smell is left. On the palate the wine is very acidic and spicy.
Syrah in the Pinot Noir glass: the wine smells almost faulty with a very yeasty, off aroma. The tannins are very aggressive – not smooth.
Syrah in the Hermitage glass: The fruit is highlighted – blackberries, cassis. Complex. Very silky on the palate – smooth and round texture.
Syrah in the Cabernet glass: The tannins are soft but the fruit is missing. The alcohol is highlighted.
Cabernet Sauvignon in the Cabernet glass: The Cabernet glass is the largest in size because of Cabernet’s very intense aromas. Complex, soft, and delicious. Lots of sweet fruit. Round tannins.
Cabernet in the Pinot Noir glass: More green and herbaceaous aromas and flavours. Wine seems much more oaky with tar components from the oak showing through. Very tannic. The smaller glass de-emphasizes the complexity of the wine and brings out greener flavours.
Mr. Riedel admitted that only 5 different glasses are really all that’s needed to showcase most wines:
- Aromatic white glass: suitable for any aromatic white grape such as Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Viognier, Sauvignon Blance, Muscat, etc. Also suitable for Chianti and Valpolicella
- Chardonnay glass: suitable for oaked Chardonnays and mature Chardonnays
- Pinot Noir glass: suitable for Pinot Noir from around the world. Also suitable for Barolo and other Nebbiolo wines.
- Hermitage glass: a very under-valued glass as it is suitable for many varietals such as Syrah, Spanish red varietals, Grenache, Southern Rhone reds, Touriga Nacional, Malbec, Brunello di Montalcino, and reds from the Languedoc.
- Cabernet glass: Suitable for Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Bordeaux varietal blends.
Mr. Riedel also noted a sixth glass that may be suitable for some restaurants – the Shiraz glass. It is well-known that although they are the same varietal, Australian Shiraz is quite different than Syrah from the Rhone Valley for example. For that reason, Riedel has designed a Shiraz glass for Australian Shiraz. It’s interesting to note that Amarone also shows very well in the Shiraz glass.
The XL Restaurant line of Riedel glasses are very reasonably priced at around $6.95 a glass (compared to around $40 or more for some of the other Riedel lines). The price also makes them attractive for those who like to entertain at home. If a dinner guest happens to break one it probably won’t be the end of the friendship. Go to www.riedel.com or if you live in the Toronto or surrounding area, contact The Wine Establishment.