Georg Riedel convinces Lawrence Herder
Georg Riedel with some Riedel decanters
Similkameen winemaker Lawrence Herder enjoyed a moment of revelation last week at the hands of Austrian wine glass manufacturer Georg Riedel.
It happened at a seminar and tasting during the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.
Herder’s 2006 Bellamay Vineyards Pinot Noir was one of the wines used by Riedel to show the importance of matching wines to properly designed wine glasses.
“No other grape variety is as sensitive to the wine glass as is Pinot Noir,” Riedel said. He then proceeded to lead the group through tastings in which the Herder wine was sampled from a Pinot Noir glass, then from a Chardonnay glass, a Cabernet Sauvignon glass, a Riesling glass and a plastic tumbler.
The Pinot Noir was particularly ill-served in the Chardonnay glass and, of course, was totally destroyed by the tumbler.
But in the proper glass, the wine is a marvellous 90-point Pinot Noir. The aroma expresses almost jammy cherry notes. On the palate, the flavours include spice and strawberries. The texture is the classic silken Pinot Noir texture, creating the sensation that this is a full-bodied wine. The finish is long and lingering.
All these excellent qualities showed so well in the tulip-shaped Pinot Noir glass that even the winemaker was shaking his head in amazed delight. Now, he is asking himself whether he needs to have some of the elaborate Riedel stemware in his Similkameen tasting room.
For Georg Riedel, it was another mission accomplished. “I’m here to complicate your wine life,” he jokes.
It was his father in the 1950s who conceived the idea of designing “wine friendly” wine glasses. Over the last two decades, Georg, the 10th generation Riedel to produce crystal, has taken this to a new level. His company’s current catalogue runs to 50 pages, with stemware designed for every major grape variety or beverage, and quite a few besides. If you have ever wondered what wine glass in which to serve Beaujolais Nouveau, Riedel has one.
Riedel recalled the first time he sat Robert Mondavi down to taste a series of wines in different glasses. Mondavi announced before the tasting that this was just a load of rubbish. By the end of the tasting, he was one of Riedel’s strongest converts.
It stands to reason that a wine glass should be designed to make the best of any wine’s strongest points, especially the aroma.
“Eighty percent of the enjoyment of food and wine is olfactory,” Riedel maintains. The rest is divided between the feel of the wine on the palate and the taste. “What you think you taste, you actually smell,” he says.
Riedel wine glasses come in a several series but the basic engineering principles are much the same. The Pinot Noir glass has a fat tummy but it pinches in slightly at the top of a fairly long chimney. The design allows the wine to release its aromas while controlling the rate at which the aromas escape. The shape of the wine glass lip delivers wine the appropriate part of the palate. A Pinot Noir needs to hit that part of the tongue most sensitive to the fruit and the silky texture.
Herder’s Pinot Noir was put through its paces with stemware from Riedel’s Vitis line, designs created in 2007. Elegantly tall and contemporary, these are machine-made lead crystal, somewhat more affordable than hand-blown stemware in Riedel’s classic Sommelier line. Perhaps even affordable enough for a wine shop in the Similkameen!