Swirl this: Taste of Vail Riedel seminar highlights why wine glass shape and size matters
Throughout the seminar attendees tasted four different varietals and the stemware best suited for each
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We’ve all sipped wine out of a not-so-glamorous vessel. Think about casual restaurants and outdoor picnics — venues that aren’t always suited to have special glassware for nice wine. Sometimes the plastic cup or cheap chalice is unavoidable, but after attending the Riedel Comparative Wine Glass Workshop at Taste of Vail this year, I know now how much a glass can change the aroma, taste and overall experience of a wine.
“Riedel glassware is a vessel that will help to enhance wine when it’s in its right glass,” said Shelley Sale at the seminar on Thursday, April 4, inside The Sebastian in Vail. Sale is a Riedel ambassador for the state of Colorado.
Master Sommelier Sean Razee co-led the event and explained how Riedel’s varietal-specific glasses enhance the aromas and taste components, while finding a wine’s maximum complexity by featuring the best possible harmony.
“These glasses just accentuate aromas the way they should be accentuated — the way most of the winemakers who produce these wines feel they should be expressed,” Razee said. “Riedel does a huge amount of research with the producers of these wines. They taste umpteen versions of their wine in different glasses to identify the glass that they producers feel is going to provide the best representation of their wines.”
Throughout the seminar attendees tasted four different varietals and the stemware best suited for each, along with the stemware that wasn’t a match. We tried the Reichsrat von Buhl riesling in a riesling glass, in the chardonnay glass and in the pinot noir glass as well. This German wine from the Pfalz region was just lovely from the riesling glass with expressions notes of white flower, peaches and melon. The moment we put it in the chardonnay glass to sip, these aromas and the familiar dry riesling characteristic of this region was lost.
“This glass takes that wine and spreads it out over your tongue,” Razee said of riesling out of the chardonnay glass. “Then it hits the sides of your cheeks, creating an over-accentuated experience.”
After trying the riesling from the pinot noir glass, Sale instructed us to pour it back into the resiling glass for our “repair sip.” Out of its right glass, the wine was back to its beautiful balance of bright aromas with a definitive backbone.
When all the right elements are in place, a glass can become the wine’s loudspeaker. Not only does the shape and size of glassware impact aroma and flavor, it also impacts how a wine is seen.
“One of the things we do when we are tasting wine, especially blind tasting, is look at things like the reflectiveness, and we look at how transparent or opaque the wines are, and in this type of glass you really get to experience that at a high level,” Razee said of the pinot noir glass with the Saintsbury pinot noir that was poured for the seminar. “This becomes very important on a red wine, as opposed to white wine it’s not that important. This red wine glass really allows us to experience this wine in a visual way.”
Along with the buzz of intrigue that was passed between participants as they experienced how every wine was significantly different out of every glass, each guest left the seminar with a Riedel Veritas Tasting Kit with four glasses (suggested retail of $119) to keep. At least at home now I’ll feel well-equipped to taste wine the way the winemakers intended.
When in doubt of what glass to use for what wine, Sale explained, always go back to the grape that creates it. For the pinot noir rose wines that will be complementing my patio picnics this summer, guess which vessel will get the love: that big-bulbed and swirl-friendly pinot glass. It’s true with food and wine that the more we know the more we can appreciate. We’ll cheers to that, and Taste of Vail!