Mon 13 Aug 2012

A Loudspeaker For Wine: Tasting With Riedel Glasses


Earlier this year I was treated to a mesmerising tasting by Maximilian Riedel of the Riedel glass company which has totally transformed my perception of the wine glass. When tasting professionally, and drinking properly, I always take great care in selecting the appropriate glass: usually the versatile ?Chianti? glass (which is what we use in the tasting room here at The Wine Society).

But what baffled me at the Riedel tasting is just how different shapes of glass can maximise wine intensity and enjoyment. The right glass can boost a wine?s quality features just like a loudspeaker can for music. And it?s all down to the flow pattern and rim shape, apparently.

Maxmilian explains: ?The shape of the glass is responsible for the flow of the wine and consequently where it touches various taste zones on the tongue. The initial point of contact depends on the shape and the volume of the glass, the diameter of the rim and its finish (whether it is cut and polished or rolled edge) as well as the thickness of the crystal.?

So with these principles in mind Riedel got together with winemakers, sommeliers and consumers to design a glass for each grape variety. We looked at four wines – a sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon – with four different glasses.

The wider bowl of the chardonnay glass focused the wine across the palate, improving its lovely broad quality, while the sauvignon was tasted with a narrow rim glass which targets the wine to the tip of the tongue, highlighting the grape?s precise, elegant structure. The pinot noir glass has a special lip on the rim, ?the acidity bumper?, which minimises acidity, thus amplifying the delicious succulence of this fine grape. Finally, the gigantic Vinum XL for cabernet sauvignon is as big and bold as this muscular grape variety.

A loudspeaker is electronically engineered to provide the purest expression of sound. It seems Maximilian and his family have applied the same intricate detail to their glasses.

Pierre Mansour
Society Buyer

The Wine Society stocks a number of Riedel glasses.


  1. Jerry W says:

    Presumably, one would need to try the same wine in several different glasses, to obtain any data about whether or not the glass was contributing to or affecting the taste and bouquet. Is that what was done?

    • Pierre Mansour says:

      Thanks for your note. Yes, we tried each wine in the ‘correct’ glass then looked at that same wine in the other glasses. It was this exercise that I found the most illuminating.

  2. Saf Asghar says:

    Where would I find Riedel glasses in the USA.

  3. Graham Roberts says:

    The first time I encountered Riedel was a revelation – in this case drinking White Rioja at nearly room temperature from an enormous Sommeliers Montrachet glass – almost spherical in shape.

    I still find their Chardonnay glasses lift even modest wines such as the Society’s White Burgundy to another level.

  4. Keith Diment says:

    I approached a Riedel stand at a huge exhibition with much scepticism and was asked which grape variety I liked. “Pinot Noir”, I replied, and was handed a tasting of that in an ordinary tasting glass followed by another sample from the same bottle in a Riedel glass. I could hardly believe the difference. I had heard about Riedel glasses, but had never had such an opportunity to experience them. Against all my expectations the Riedel glass really did make the wine taste better.

    Somehow, regretfully, I have never been able to justify the cost of buying a few Riedel glasses for each of the kinds of wine we might serve.

    We have, however, been fortunate enough to have been given, by German friends, a pair of Riedel tasting glasses and they are very clever. A hollow stem holds exactly 20ml. The base of the glass is the same diameter as the widest part of the bowl. Having filled the stem, you place the glass on its side on the table and roll it. Not a drop is spilt, but the entire inner surface of the bowl is coated with wine. There is enough wine to sniff, taste, swallow (or spit), and sniff and taste a second time. The perfect tasting glass, and it allows as many as 37 tastes from a bottle.

    If only we didn’t have to balance the cost of Riedel glasses against more essential mundane items!

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