Wine Time, Glasses ain’t glasses!

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We recently bought ourselves some deliciously beautiful wine glasses that claim to be for drinking “Wooded Chardonnays”.  And because we have been rediscovering the many wonderful Chardonnays, and because the glasses were damn gorgeous, we spoiled ourselves with a set of six of these exquisite Riedel babies. 

I love quality wine glasses and for me, an attractive, well weighted, balanced glass really adds to the wine drinking experience. However, I’m not sure that the glass in any way enhances the flavour of the wine that you actually pour into the glass. So, why is it that some wine glassmakers claim that certain wines should be drunk out of specific styles of glasses?

Apparently, Riedel was one of the early glass manufacturers who came out with a range of glassware highlighting that different wine varietals would benefit if drunk from glassware designed specifically for it. The Austrian company Riedel have a long history of 260 years making premium glassware. 

Back in the ‘70s, Riedel claimed that “the specific shape of the glass would aid a wine drinker in picking up every aroma of the wine, and that shape would also direct the wine to the exact part of your mouth that would allow you to taste that wine best”. As a marketing exercise, this worked wonderfully for them – and sales went through the roof! There was a selection of around 10 glass designs for specific wine styles, including pinot noir, syrah, sauvignon blanc etc.

So for a period of time, many in the wine game believed and supported the notion of Riedel’s theory, and many “on-trend” wine drinkers must have experienced much confusion figuring out which glass goes with which wine, particularly if they hadn’t labelled their wine glass cabinet clearly!  Interestingly, wine judges did not stray from using the standard wine taster for judging at wine competitions.

A report came out in 2004, indicating that studies suggest that these claims by Riedel were not scientifically proven. It was suggested that your brain doesn’t care where the taste is coming from in your mouth and that while the glassware may be beautiful, the flavour of the wine doesn’t taste any better than it would being drunk from your standard vegemite glass jar!

Riedel were not deterred, and there must have been enough of us suckers who bought into their ploy that encouraged them to greater innovation by creating the now common “O” series glassware, the stemless glassware range.  

And it also didn’t stop us from buying our stunning “Wooded Chardonnay” glasses.  And as I sit writing this, I have pulled out one of my beautiful “Wooded Chardonnay” Riedel wineglasses, which are typically stored carefully away in their box after we so easily broke one the first time we used them, and I have poured a little of our 2012 Chardonnay.  This Chardonnay is lightly oaked, and I am assessing whether it tastes better than it did the other day out of our standard, ordinary, but not unattractive, wine glasses. And my conclusion, after pairing the Chardonnay in this stunning Riedel glass with some fantastic smoked salmon … YES, it tastes better!

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