People are naturally skeptical. So it is without question that when presented with the fact that stemware not only makes a difference but can completely change your physical perception of a wine, most people raise an eyebrow.
And that’s okay.
When we first get into wine, simply swirling the glass and tasting the juice is enough. The topic of wine is confusing and daunting, and the last thing you want to hear is that you’re using the wrong glass. But if there is one thing you can do to enhance your wine appreciation and enjoyment it’s to use the right glass.
Here is the analogy to keep in mind: the wineglass is simply a delivery system for the sense of smell and taste, not unlike a speaker delivering music to your ears. You can have a $300,000 Goldmund’s Reference II turntable hooked up to a Pivetta Opera One Amplifier (a steal at $490,000), and monster cables leading out to your speakers … but if you have cheap and low quality speakers you’re going to have horrible sound.
This isn’t voodoo or hocus-pocus. There is no three card monte game going on in front of you. This is science, pure and simple.
Two things are at work with proper stemware. First, the size and shape of the bowl controls and delivers the aromatic molecules that delivers the sense of smell. A big wine (Cabernet Sauvignon) swirled in a tight, small bowl will deliver a sharp, tart, and harsh aroma package. The same wine in a large bowl allows the expansion of the aromas to match the style of the wine. Second, the shape of the opening along with the thickness of the glass controls where on your tongue the wine gets delivered. Wherever it hits first makes the longest and strongest impression. Wines to emphasize fruit (ala Pinot Noir), should hit the tip of the tongue first. Wine to emphasize acid should hit farther back.
Nobody has done more research and development in this subject than the Riedel family. Through trial and error, testing and time, with the top winemakers and sommeliers in the world, they have developed the best stemware for the world of wines. A tasting with Georg or Max Riedel is one of the most eye-opening experiences a wine lover can have, and will leave you changed.
Here’s a fun video from Gary V, drinking Pinot Noir out of a half dozen different stems. His honesty is apparent (and he announces he walked into this as a skeptic). Go straight to 16:20 to hear his conclusions.