Riedel; read on before discarding a bottle of vino

Dubai; Don’t you love that feeling of learning something new?…well FooDiva just did through an educational glass tasting by Georg Riedel – well it had to be food related, n’est-ce pas? Yes you heard right, not simple wine tasting…but glass.

Georg Riedel in action

Georg Riedel talks us through the glass and wine tasting

In case you didn’t know, Riedel are the 250-year old Austrian wine glass specialists, and Georg is the tenth-generation head of the family-run business who paid Dubai a visit this weekend to share his glass and wine wisdom with an 80-odd group of wine enthusiasts.

Now when someone opens a session with “I would like to introduce you to something you would believe is not possible…eye-opening…” you listen up, no? In a nutshell, a glass’ shape will forever dictate the aroma, taste and flavour of a wine. So when you are next dining out and you send back your favourite bottle of wine because the temperature, texture or taste are not quite to your palate, perhaps you should be returning your wine glass instead? Incredible, but true.

To prove his case, Georg started us off with water tasting – simple Arwa bottled drinking water, none of the more discerning international mineral or spring water brands – in three different shapes of wine glasses, and you can see them in this photo.

Riedel wine glasses for Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon

From left to right, Riedel wine glasses for Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon

Believe it or not, as bland as water can be, it not only smelled different, but tasted different in every single glass. The audience oohed and aghed…

We then moved onto the stronger stuff; three red wines each with a different grape; Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Now according to Georg, wine consists of 85% water, 14% alcohol and 1% flavour. It’s flavour not taste that determines a good wine – well he is a wine glass manufacturer after all. So where does the flavour come from? Yeast, fermented concentrated juice, oak, and the skin of the grape. “All wines have four components contributing to flavour; fruit, minerality, acidity and bitterness that equate to our four sensations; sweet, salt, sour and bitter.”

Never fill a glass more than a quarter full of wine – but you knew that anyway. After pouring, we swirled it (you only need to do so if the wine has not had enough time to breathe and warm up) – we even tipped the glass horizontally to allow the wine to touch the rim.

“You must have body contact with your glass, which means you rest the rim on your upper lip, and then the wine gives you intimacy and beautiful aromas.” So we breathed in, and then sipped it gently (with no spitting required, hoorah!), relishing the taste and ultimately the flavour. We tested each of the three grape varietals in three glasses. Would you believe it, each and every grape had its optimum glass. Unbelievable how bitter and acidic the wines tasted in the wrong glass.

“All lovers of red wine have a preferred glass at home…which means that this one chance [you have] determines your preference for a certain kind of wine, making you and your palate a one way street.”  The flow of the wine and where it touches your taste buds has a direct impact on the balance and harmony of flavour – therefore the right shape of glass is crucial. And it’s not just shape, but volume, diameter of the rim, and thickness of the crystal that all play a part.

Now I have always loved combining dark chocolate with red wine – bubbles and diamonds aside, they are a girl’s best friend. And to my delight so does Georg; we sampled teeny bites of Lindt dark chocolate with the Cabernet Sauvignon served in three different glasses; oh my, in the right glass, the flavours matched perfectly.

Georg’s son and creative genius designs very contemporary and unusually shaped decanters for Riedel, but Georg himself claimed that decanting in another bottle or vessel is just as good, as long as you give the wine an hour or so to breathe – but of course those beauties do impress on the dinner table.

A couple of hours later, whilst dining in the Shangri-La Dubai’s Amwaj restaurant, I swopped my large glass, for a smaller, more traditional white wine glass and my French Côtes du Rhône (naturally red) was so much more flavoursome. FooDiva rests her case.

After all, a craftsman is only as good as his tools. So next time, make sure you match your glass with your wine.

Riedel’s Vinum wine glass range is machine-made in Germany with a 24% lead crystal content, making it perfect for the dishwasher. Available at Tavola stores across the Middle East, starting from AED199 for a set of two. If you’re looking to splurge, opt for the more expensive hand-blown collection manufactured in Austria.

The Riedel glass tasting and dinner was organised by Shangri-La Dubai, Tavola and MMI. Wine connoisseurs, you may want to consider joining MMI’s Grapevine community – it’s free, and you don’t have to own an alcohol license. Click here.

The glass tasting and three course dinner paired with wines cost AED550. In return, all participants received five different wine glasses from the Vinum range equating to AED600. Subliminal marketing at its best, I guess I will now scoot off to purchase the remaining glasses. See you at Tavola.

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

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9 Responses to “Riedel; read on before discarding a bottle of vino”

  1. Rajani@eatwritethink March 14, 2011 at 6:07 am

    hi samantha… i have no clue about wine and the only little thing i know is because of sergio esposito’s book passion on the vine cos i love reading abt food and travel. your post was so interesting and eye opening, maybe i am denying myself something!?! loved the post.

    • FooDiva March 14, 2011 at 8:50 am

      Thanks Rajani. Glad FooDiva is sharing some knowledge! I like to think I know a little about wine, and I still learnt so much this weekend. x

  2. Yiahni March 14, 2011 at 8:13 am

    My dear Foodiva, what a delightful article. I am ashamed to admit that I read it with some amusement as am somewhat infamous for selecting drinks by the shape of the glass although in all honesty, given my uncouth palate, this is something deriving from ennui rather than taste and anything would do, colour, effervescence, temperature, density, you name it.

    Nonetheless even in my most nihilistic moments I do notice how much better a beverage tastes if served in a glass (preferably clean) as opposed to slurping from the can or bottle say. I am somewhat more sceptical when it comes to the shape dynamics, however armed with the knowledge that you have so generously imparted it behoves one to embark on some serious research. Of course ultimately one should carry one’s own set of crystal around (in velvet lined caskets naturaly) for that personal touch – what excellent presents they would make!

    • FooDiva March 14, 2011 at 8:54 am

      Thanks once again Gianni for another effervescent comment. Any chance you fancy contributing as a guest writer?! I should also add that personally I feel a clear versus coloured glass/ crystal makes a huge difference too. I like to see the depth of colour in a wine.

  3. Admirer March 16, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Incredible – you learn something all the time – especially with the water!!!!!

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