In a word, yes! I was recently lucky enough to attend a tasting at Vinopolis lead by Maximilian Riedel, CEO of Riedel Crystal of America and the 11th generation of the Riedel glassmaking dynasty. In his slight New York accent, Maximilian demonstrated the relationship between the shape of a glass and our perception and enjoyment of wines. It was one of the most unique and interesting tastings I have ever attended.
I have always considered Riedel glassware to be among the best in the world but could not understand how a slight difference in glass shape could affect the different varietals. Can a Syrah really taste that different in a Cabernet glass? Is the average person supposed to (a) be able to afford a set of glasses for every grape variety in their range and (b) have space for them?
Maximilian is a very passionate man. Not only does he market the glassware around the world, he is also an integral part of the design team. Basically he knows what he is talking about and his enthusiasm was infectious.
He took us through a range of wines which were tasted in various glasses. Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon were all tasted in the respective glasses and then swapped into each others’ glasses. It was incredible that a Cabernet can be so muted in a Pinot Noir glass and be extremely tannic and astringent in a standard ISO tasting glass. We even tasted the wines in a plastic cup which, unsurprisingly, made them completely dead and lifeless.
For me, the most fascinating thing was to find out that the bowl’s shape guides the wine in the glass to different parts of the palate, depending on the grape variety. For example a Sauvignon Blanc bowl is narrow and channels the wine onto the tip of the tongue for instant freshness and to emphasise the acidity. A Chardonnay glass is much bigger and rounder so the wine is directed onto a wider section of the palate. This helps to fill the entire mouth with the wine. When the Sauvignon Blanc was put into the Chardonnay glass the wine really did seem disjointed with unbalanced acidity.
I went into the tasting with no expectations and came out with a free set of Riedel glasses and a desire for a larger glass cabinet!