Yes, the Glass Shape Does Matter!

16 Apr 2009, Posted by Jennifer Iannolo in beverages

Chef Mark and I were invited to a tasting yesterday with Maximilian Riedel at Riedel’s showroom in NYC. We had heard from some colleagues that this would be a fun experience, but we had no idea what was in store for us.

Prior to this interactive workshop, I had heard that wine glass shape made a difference, but I was dubious — was this simply another note of wine snobbery in an industry already rife with posturing? Imagine my surprise.

A true showman, Maximilian is a CEO with true passion for his product, and it shows in every vessel Riedel creates. An 11th generation glassmaker, he is the grandson of Claus Riedel, the first designer to recognize that glass shape affected everything about a wine, from its bouquet to its balance and finish.

Fortunately, we were treated to more than a list of information — we experienced the difference in real time. We tasted wines in glasses designed just for their level of acidity, body and bouquet, then tasted them in the “wrong” glasses — from Pinot Noir in Chardonnay glasses to all the wines in plastic cups. The differences were palpable, and it was actually a relief to put the wines back into their proper glasses for a final taste.

Next week you’ll hear the full experience on Food Philosophy, as I was permitted to record the entire session, and I hope it will really give you a sense of our journey of discovery. For me, the relationship between wine and glasses is forever changed (I might become annoying at dinner parties, but I’m only trying to help).

In the interim I wanted to share some images from the event, as well as a photo of “Eve,” the latest in Riedel’s line of decanters. Their pieces can easily be called artwork, and I find them very sensually satisfying. For Riedel, the wine is the centerpiece (their R&D division is essentially the Napa Valley and its winemakers), so their glasses can barely be felt on the lip as one prepares for that first sip of elixir. I found the whole process to be one of sensual indulgence, and invite you to try it for yourself to see the difference.

Chef Mark took some quick video from his digital camera, so pardon the lighting, but we didn’t want you to miss out on this piece. You can hear the gurgling as the elixir winds its way through the decanter, and get a real sense of Maximilian’s passion for his subject.

We’ll be shooting a more in-depth, HD video with Maximilian in the spring, so keep your eyes peeled (and palates ready) for that! (Note: You can also see our Facebook photos from the day here.)