Saturday, January 12, 2013

Form Follows Function

For over twenty years, I've known that the characteristics of each varietal dictates the necessity for a particularly shaped glass in order to experience the full potential of a wine. I generally try to accommodate a wine with its proper glass, but to be truthful, I have drunk Mosel Rieslings and even an old vine Zinfandel from a Pinot Noir glass. Sacrilege you say? Well yeah, probably, but I didn't have the choice on hand. Recently, I participated in a Riedel glass seminar and have since changed my wayward ways.

For all you tire kickers and naysayers, I see those little thought bubbles with phrases like, "Yeah, it matters which glass you use for a wine, if you're Riedel and you're in the business of selling as many glasses as you can!" Or, "I'm sure it does matter which glass you use but I doubt that anyone would notice the difference." 

May I interject? That is ABSOLUTELY NOT SO!

The audience was comprised of a gathering of professionals from the food, wine and hospitality industries. We were presented with five wines to taste in their respective glasses plus a joker glass (an all purpose glass commonly used for hospitality functions and tasting rooms.) First, we learned about how glasses are made. We learned about the difference between glasses -- inferior glasses (thick without the aid of crystal with the bead still intact on the rim), crystal versus not crystal and why particular shapes were designed for specific varietals. We began tasting the varietals in the joker glass followed by tasting in their correct glasses. There were definite differences I could tell in favor of using the correct glass. And as I was familiar with most of the wines poured, I could tell that they were showing well that day. 

But that's not where it ends. Yours truly, a tire kicker and naysayer herself, immediately began pouring each wine in each of the 6 glasses to see how the glass shapes affected the wine. And that's when it happened. Epiphany! Although I expected a difference, I did not expect the magnitude of some of the effects of the glasses on the same wine. In some cases, the wines, which showed beautifully in their proper glass, were noticeably diminished in the nose. Others were destroyed in the wrong glass -- reduced to a whimpering shadow of their former selves. The Riesling, a beautiful wine, lost so much in the nose, flavor and acidity when tasted from the pinot noir glass, it ceased to be an enjoyable experience. And the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, which is normally a robust, full fruit and body wine, was transformed to "meh."

Since the seminar, I REALLY began paying attention to a glass's effect on wine. When I brought wine to a friend's house for dinner, I noticed that the glass actually put me off from drinking a wine that I loved. Last dinner invitation, I brought my own glasses with wine. Lately, I've been thinking about buying glasses to give to friends in need. Is this obnoxious? Or is it sharing and caring? Perhaps it's all part of the grand Riedel scheme of selling more glasses after all.

Moral of the story? If you love a wine and want to enjoy it to its fullest expression, then by all means, make every effort to use its proper glass. 

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