need to know

The art of glass

Put down the plastic cup or that tricep-straining goblet. If you’ve invested in good wine, the least it deserves is to be drunk from the right glass.

Put down the plastic cup or that tricep-straining goblet. If you’ve invested in  good wine, the least it deserves is to be drunk from the right glass.

Remember back in the day when all wine glasses were created equal? It was probably about the same time some bright spark decided all wine should come in foil bags and boxes instead of bottles.

Those glasses were well-built and sturdy, constructed rather than created, with stems the width of your thumb and could probably stand up to a game of volleyball without breaking. Good news if you’re worried about party breakages; not such good news for your taste buds.

The idea that wine changes when drunk from different shaped glasses is not a scam to make you buy more wine glasses. We promise. Around the 1950s Claus Riedel, who’s family business had already been creating glassware for 300 years through nine generations, discovered that glass thickness, shape, colour and cut all had an impact on the aroma, taste and overall impression of the wine they carried. And moreover the impact varied according to the wine varietal.

It was a revolutionary idea and Riedel spent much of the next 25 years researching and creating glassware to showcase different wines.

If you remain sceptical, the easiest solution is try it for yourself. Gather some friends, wines, and a range of glasses of different shapes and sizes. Taste each wine methodically from different glasses and make a note of how the flavour, aroma and even the mouthfeel of the wines change.

Below are some basic principles when it comes to what wine to drink from which glass but as Riedel Australia managing director Michael Baulderstone says, the first rule is to think about what wines you like and work from that perspective.

Width matters:

Your tongue can really only distinguish four basic tastes: sweet, salty, bitter and sour which are in different areas of the tongue. The degree of taper at the mouth of the glass will help determine which part of your palate the wine will hit first, which impacts on the flavours you will taste most strongly. A narrow glass, for example, requires you to tilt your head further, directing the wine deeper into your mouth where bitter tastes are most keenly sensed. The narrow mouth also helps keep fruity aromas concentrated at the top of the glass. Fuller-bodied wines should be served in glasses with wider bowls which allow the wine to be aerated with swirling, releasing the aromas. With all that in mind the best glass styles for our favourite varietals are:

SAUVIGNON BLANC – tall, and thin with a small bowl and tapered at the top

CHARDONNAY – wide bowl and only slightly tapered with a longer stem to keep the wine cool; they’re also often larger to allow more room for swirling

SHIRAZ – smaller than other red wine glasses with a wide bowl and a tapered mouth designed to show off the variety’s often bold tannins and peppery flavours

CABERNET SAUVIGNON – large enough to allow plenty of swirling with a broad bowl to make the most of aeration

PINOT NOIR – a tapered top with a wide bowl and smaller in size; some recent designs also include a flared lip to deliver the wine’s flavours to the palate quickly 

But what about Champagne?

Here’s where things get a little more controversial. Traditionally the best glass for Champagne or methode traditionelle is the flute. The flute began to replace the wide shallow champagne glasses of the 1930s when it was realised the tall thin glasses kept the wine effervescent for longer – useful when you’re lining up glasses by the dozen for a toast. But more recent thinking suggests that if you’re pouring and tasting it within a reasonably short period then something more akin to a chardonnay glass works well. The wider bowl and only minimal taper allow the aromas and flavours of the wine to come to the fore. And when you consider that many Champagnes feature chardonnay or burgundy grapes it begins to make sense.

Biggest isn’t always best:

Cabernet glasses tend to be the largest size and, says Baulderstone, consumers tend to love them for it. But, he says, a cabernet glass is the absolute enemy of pinot noir.

To decant or not to decant:

The purpose of pouring wine into a decanter before serving is to allow it to aerate which will allow for the full expression of flavour. All wines benefit from aeration so Baulderstone recommends decanting whenever practical. Plus, he adds, it adds a wonderful sense of theatre to wine enjoyment.

Keep it clean:

It’s not all about shape. It’s also vital that glassware is immaculately clean. You don’t want a veneer of detergent or residue getting between you and your wine. For this reason alone it’s a good idea to think about glassware that can go in a dishwasher rather than having to be handwashed. And even then, give it a wipe with a clean tea towel before serving.

Temperature control:

Ideally have your wine glass at the same temperature as your wine when you pour. 

Perfect for pinot

Chief executive of prestigious Austrian Riedel Glass Company, Georg Riedel, paid a visit to Central Otago earlier this year to gain a better appreciation for the region’s famed pinot noir – all with an eye toward creating the perfect glass from which to enjoy it.

Riedel embarked on an intensive tasting with about 20 wine experts and local winemakers who each tried Central Otago pinot noir from 14 different types of Riedel glasses. Riedel said Central Otago Pinot Noir was selected for the new wine glass because of its quality and intensity.

He said using the right glass was “crucial” when enhancing the art of drinking wine. He asked the tasting

panel to concentrate on how each wine performed in each glass. How did it feel? And did that vary glass to glass.

Each guest was asked to rate the glasses and award points to those they thought best reflected the way the wine should taste, before scores were collated.

Experienced winemaker Alan Brady, pioneer of wine in Central Otago, said he was “amazed” at how different his Wild Irishman Pinot Noir wine tasted in each of the glasses. “It was like I had tasted 14 different wines.”

“The perfect pinot noir glass has a rounded, bulbous bottom and a thin pointed flow at the top. The glass controls the flow of wine to the palate in a spectacular way so the wine doesn’t become better, it tastes better,” said Riedel.“A wine as good as your pinot noir needs to be savoured from the correct glass.”

The Riedel Central Otago pinot noir glass is planned for release later this year. 

Talk to your local Liquorland about Riedel glassware today; all stores can order some for you.

The good news: Riedel has done the hard work for you, releasing glasses already matched to wine varieties so you don’t have to memorise all of the above. As Baulderstone says: “We make glasses for each grape variety through a structured workshop process, you only need to know the varieties you enjoy the most and match the glasses to them. All the work has been done for the consumer, it is just a case of matching the glass to the grape.”

Buying a full set of wine glasses to perfectly suit every wine variety out there is not financially practical for most of us. Riedel generally suggests starting with a glass to match the varietal you enjoy the most and build from there as budget allows. 

Click and Collect

Just one click. That’s all it takes to grab your weekend cocktail essentials from your local Liquorland thanks to Click and Collect.

Simply choose your desired tipples, pay at the quick ’n’ easy online checkout and voilà – your purchases will be ready and waiting for you at your Liquorland store of choice.