Riedel Wine Glasses
December 21, 2002 9:16 PM   Subscribe

Can I Have A Glass For This? Yes, you can. Riedel make the best glasses in the world (well, with a little competition...), painstakingly suiting each drink to the best shape and size of container, for the benefit of nose, mouth, eyes and hold. A very recent addition, not yet found on their official list, is the bourbon glass, made with expert advise from Fred Noe, of the legendary Noe family, overlords of Jim Beam. Form means content indeed! More's the pity that the great majority of drinks are served in inappropriate glasses and therefore never fully enjoyed.
posted by MiguelCardoso (62 comments total)
Puh-lease. A glass is a glass, and the rest is just clever marketing.
posted by MegoSteve at 9:31 PM on December 21, 2002

Having recently endured an office Christmas party with warm plonk in plastic tumblers, I can't help but agree that glass makes a difference, and the right glass also makes a difference.

Though I just can't see myself drinking Jack-on-the-rocks from a wonky trifle glass. Just doesn't go with the image: I try to get pubs to serve me with heavy old-fashioned glasses (old-fashioned the cocktail, that is) and I've been known to get female colleagues to, um, mislay the best examples in their handbags. Sorry.
posted by riviera at 9:33 PM on December 21, 2002

Puh-lease. A glass is a glass, and the rest is just clever marketing.

No 20 year old Barolos for you MegoSteve. Get that jelly jar out of my sight.
posted by machaus at 9:39 PM on December 21, 2002

Never fear. The drinks are inevitably "fully enjoyed."
posted by micropublishery at 9:43 PM on December 21, 2002

Nothing with a stem for me. I like the idea of the perfect glass for each beverage, but I think personal preference weighs in heavily. I also (Cheers, riviera!) enjoy a Jack-on-the-rocks in an Old Fashion-style glass. I also prefer wine in what is more commonly referred to as a "juice" glass. My wife prefers a bulbous goblet. Go figure.
posted by jaronson at 9:55 PM on December 21, 2002

Though I just can't see myself drinking Jack-on-the-rocks from a wonky trifle glass

Hee hee. No, neither can I. But Riedel don't make rocks (or highball) glasses, so that bourbon glass is only for sipping old bourbon (or rye), neat, no ice. I did find some perfect, heavy 100% lead crystal old-fashioned glasses on Amazon though. Not bad at all at under $3 each ($16.99 for 6).

I can't understand spending a lot of money on good booze and then skimping on the glasses which, unlike the booze, can be washed and used again. If you don't break them the first few times, they pay for themselves.

There's a lot to be said for the pleasure of holding a good glass, rolling around the wine or the cognac or whatever and sticking your big nose into its business.

*starts crying*

You philistines!!!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:58 PM on December 21, 2002

I highly recommend owning a pair of these shaped glasses for wine despite their normal intended use with Cognac. The narrow "chimney" funnels and accentuates the smell, allowing you to focus on the multiple dimensions of good wine. If you want to learn about grape varietals and how they vary, you need the right tools. Take them to your next tasting and don't be afraid to look like a wine geek.
posted by machaus at 9:59 PM on December 21, 2002

I try to get pubs to serve me with heavy old-fashioned glasses

Or in a pinch, I'll settle for a triple-Makers, straight up, in a pint glass. *hic*
posted by eddydamascene at 10:00 PM on December 21, 2002

Riedels are indeed good -- but marketing hype is definitely part of the equation. Slate did an interesting taste-test of lots of wineglasses (including Riedel) a few months ago.
posted by Vidiot at 10:04 PM on December 21, 2002

oops, I botched that link.
posted by machaus at 10:07 PM on December 21, 2002

...sticking your big nose into its business.

I do enjoy sticking my nose into the business end of a snifter of Grand Marnier. Boo-yah!
posted by jaronson at 10:07 PM on December 21, 2002

Machaus is absolutely right. That tulip-shaped glass is actually the best all-purpose tasting glass there is. Although Riedel are right to say that there's no all-purpose wine glass, just as there's no all-purpose wine, that very glass is actually used daily by professionals for every kind of wine, Cognac, Port, Madeira, Moscatel, Sherry, etc. In fact, none other is used, except for photographs and promotional bumff.

When in reduced circumstances, I use it for all whites, reds and pudding wines and, although uninformed guests will turn up their noses, it's a great conversation piece and opportunity to pull out one's books and prove them all wrong. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:17 PM on December 21, 2002

Riedel has a specialized "tasting glass" in their not-bad Vinum line. It's really similar to the Cognac/tulip-shaped glass referenced above. That's the one I've seen used in most wine tastings. (I've also seen those saucer-like French tasting cups, but can't see how those would give you anything like an accurate picture of the wine.)

Also, has anyone here used any Spiegelau? I'm wondering about them after reading that Slate article.

I really like the Riedel Champagne flutes though...they have a dot etched in the bottom so the bubbles flow from one place. (Fewer nucleation sites=fizzier wine.) Good glasses. Pity I gave them to a girlfriend who wasn't worthy of them.
posted by Vidiot at 10:38 PM on December 21, 2002

"and prove them all wrong"

Because personal taste would be..... you know..... Wrong. Thank God these things have been decided for us so we don't have to make the mistake of drinking $150 a bottle booze out of a glass that would make it taste like some cheap-ass $50 a bottle booze.

If only someone would just come up with a series of forks that would be customized to each type of meat. Eating steak with the same fork I might use for duck just seems so common.

It's good we understand these things. It would be sad to live like the rif-raf, always drinking out of the wrong glass and eating with the wrong fork. So sad.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:46 PM on December 21, 2002

I think a variety of glasses can help to establish just the right tone.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:46 PM on December 21, 2002

y6y6y6: It's about truly enjoying the pleasures you allow yourself in life. I'm sorry that we can't all be as joyless and grim as you. It really must chafe your hide. Actually, scratch that. I'm not sorry.

I have tried the Riedel experiment in the past, using a Riedel scotch glass (I think it was the Vinum line) and a plain Old Fashioned.... the Riedel made a startling difference. Definitely plan on picking some up (scotch only, not a big wine buff) somewhere along the way.
posted by jammer at 10:52 PM on December 21, 2002

This is just sheer and utter unabashed civilization.

I really liked the glass selector resource too. (first link)

Here's another description of the collaboration between Reidel and Jim Beam, but I'm going to have to say that if it's good bourbon... ah well, let's just leave it at that.

And I just can't resist poetic descriptions such as:

"I loved the opening salvo of controlled heat at palate entry, then the silky smooth texture ushers in perfectly melded flavors of sweet oak, red fruit, maple, spice, and grain mash; the aftertaste is round, direct but polite, and very long; I found this 20 year old Bourbon every bit as grand and idiosyncratic as the 5 Star 16 year old."
posted by hama7 at 11:00 PM on December 21, 2002

about truly enjoying the pleasures you allow yourself in life

I'm all for connoisseurship in all its many manifestations, as long as we understand that that's what it is. Some people find pleasure in being able to discern a B-52G from a B-52H or a Swan chair from an Egg, some find it in the utter performative discipline of something like chado, and some find it in optimal aeration surfaces to enhance a given vintage's nose.

I myself barely have the nasopalatal subtlety to tell a merlot from a pinot noir, despite my attempts at training, so such finesse is lost on me. I think this is true of many folks, even (and maybe especially) a reasonably large percentage of people ordering the top-priced wines. So I'm by nature a little skeptical.

But far be it from me to deny anyone the pleasures of making discernments which look absurdly granular from outside the affinity.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:04 PM on December 21, 2002

That's almost as good as Dave Barry's "It's lucid, yes, but almost Episcopalian in its predictability."
posted by Vidiot at 11:07 PM on December 21, 2002

" It's about truly enjoying the pleasures you allow yourself in life."

I certainly hope I enjoy life more, and more fully, than a bunch of pretencious snobs who gather 'round the den to sip cognac. But only in the right glass to be sure. And of course only sharing with people who are "worthy".
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:09 PM on December 21, 2002

Thanks to adamgreenfield for the new tag line:

Metafilter: Making discernments which look absurdly granular from outside the affinity.
posted by Vidiot at 11:11 PM on December 21, 2002

I was a tester during the development of the Riedel bourbon glass (a friend of mine is a wine expert). I tasted three different bourbons from each of nine glasses of subtly different shapes, and although I started as a cynic (what do I know – I drink Jameson with a Bud back), I have to say that it rapidly became apparent that the shape of the glass made a palpable difference in the taste and smell of the bourbon.

It also became apparent that if you do 27 shots of bourbon, even spitting them out, you absorb enough alcohol through your cheeks to get deeply and truly fucked up.
posted by nicwolff at 11:13 PM on December 21, 2002

I think you're seeing mountains in the molehills here, y6x3. As Dorothy Gaiter and John J. Brecher repeatedly note in their very good column in the Wall Street Journal, wine (and spirits) are meant to be enjoyed. It's about the people, the setting, the mood. You can have a wonderful time drinking $5 plonk out of jelly jars if you're at the right place with the right person. But if you're going to drink good stuff, then it really can taste better with the right equipment. Really good stuff downright deserves it.
posted by Vidiot at 11:23 PM on December 21, 2002

y6y6y6: good glasses make anything taste better - cheap wine, beer, coke, milk, water. They don't make bad wines seem worse, by bringing out what's awful in them. They benefit any liquid.

Just to show that matching drinks and glasses has nothing to do with snobbishness, in the Spring and Summer we use Carlisle's absurdly cheap Lafayette plastic tumblers (the transparent 16 oz. size) for highballs. They prevent the ice from melting better than glass and they have a nice feel to them. They're ideal. A large, ice-filled gin-and-tonic is much better in one of them than in any glass.

I pick them up whenever I'm in New York in one of those wonderful bar supplies stores in the Bowery. Prisoners everywhere in the world - if they were allowed highballs - would agree.

Matching drinks and containers in order to maximize enjoyment is almost a science - the coffee mug or the expresso cup exist because they were thought out and thoroughly tested. I fail to see how it goes against personal taste. Certain things are better because they truly are.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:31 PM on December 21, 2002

I picture MiguelCardoso as a supremely urbane exile, living in the grand house of a cobblestone village clinging to the side of a forbidding peak.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:36 PM on December 21, 2002

Matching drinks and containers in order to maximize enjoyment is almost the silliest thing I can imagine. I put this in the sme category as network TV and monster trucks.
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:40 PM on December 21, 2002

Hee hee, Adam. That sounds cool. Except I hate the country and nature in general . Except for the sea, but only if less than 15 miles from home, which has to be bang right in the city centre (any big city centre, within walking distance of being able to buy the TLS, the New Yorker and the Daily Telegraph), else I start fretting and go mad. The words "house", "village" and "peak" had me out in hives.

y6y6y6: well drink your champagne in your beloved's pink slipper, I don't care.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:51 PM on December 21, 2002

You mean ... you're not supposed to use the bottle?


I'm pretty skeptical about the shape of the glass actually affecting the taste. But, taste aside, there are aesthetics to consider — who wants to drink out of an ugly glass? Which is why you'd better not try to give me a rocks glass with tapered sides. So, so wrong. And what is this with bars serving mixed drinks in plastic cups? If I'm going to pay 6 dollars for a couple cents' worth of liquor I would prefer not to look like I'm about to start doing keg stands. Is this happening in civilized places, or just godforsaken backwards holes like where I live?
posted by IshmaelGraves at 12:07 AM on December 22, 2002

I drink Jameson with a Bud back


But to each his own. Oh to bludgeon a beloved faithful like Jameson with a can of suds, (not that a can of suds doesn't hit the spot, mind you). It's just the combination...

I remember goggling in stupefied horror as some aquaintances of mine drank shots of some very nice, old single-malt Scotch whiskey. Unsettling, to say the least. I'ts nice when people can appreciate the finer things.

And what is this with bars serving mixed drinks in plastic cups?

I should hope that the practice is thoroughly frowned upon, as it's just not the done thing. (See M.C.'s slipper comment above)
posted by hama7 at 12:27 AM on December 22, 2002

I pour my shit into a birdbath and it pumps out of a plastic reproduction of "The Pissing Angel". There's Dixie cups underneath, in a purple dispenser, for them that can't cup their hands. And my vomit trough/litter box sports a 2 horsepower slimline EverRude bilge pump, modified to handle chunks.
posted by Opus Dark at 12:42 AM on December 22, 2002

Opus Dark: e-mail Riedel. Your set-up sounds expensive and marketable enough. ;)

Hama7: Actually, whiskey (preferably Irish) and beer make up a classic cocktail, called the boilermaker. When I first visited a whiskey distillery (Bushmill's in Northern Ireland) I understood that whiskey is fundamentally distilled beer. So the combination makes sense.

A beer back (or a whiskey chaser) not only go well together; they're basically designed to prevent you getting too drunk (with whiskey alone) or not drunk enough (with beer). Ideally, whiskey and beer should be suited to each other - say Kilkenny's beer and Irish; McEwans and Scotch; Rolling Rock and American; Molson's and a good Canadian rye.

And, of course, served in the appropriate glasses. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:55 AM on December 22, 2002

y6y6y6: So you eat your steak with a spoon, right? Assuming you even allow yourself such an bougie delicacy as red meat? I mean, you wouldn't want to do anything as *effete* as using a knife and a fork to cut and eat your food.

Dirty plastic cups full of low-grade beer, tough steak cut with a spoon, and a salad made from wilted lettuce greens and moldy tomatoes. There's the truly virtuous dinner! Anything nicer is just so much snobby pish-tosh!

I also trust that you're using the oldest, slowest, most unstable computer than you can find, right? I mean, if an old 386 (barely) running Win95 will work, it would be absured to own anything newer than a Pentium. Right?

I mean, are you truly a miserable wretch, or just a naively cynical undergrad trying to look bored and wordly?

(Just to add some actual on-topic content to this comment: my bottles of Bowmore and Cragganmore are nearly empty. Tis truly a pitty. Time to go scotch shopping. Anyone have a favorite underdog I can try out?)
posted by jammer at 12:59 AM on December 22, 2002

If you like Bowmore and Cragganmore, Jammer (as anyone who's tried them must do) it's high time to revive this blessed Canadian tradition. I take the liberty to quote from Clause 6:

"Some small consideration should be given to complementary indulgences, the form to be determined by a sub committee with license to consider:
* Glassware
* Hand rolled cigars
* French cuffed shirting
* Pocket and pendant timepieces
* Links, studs, fobs, chains, humidors and clipping tools." ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:09 AM on December 22, 2002

There are a few things I look for in a glass...

Is it glass? (duh...)

Does it have some nice weight to it? (esp. in the bottom... wine glasses are just too light and fragile for me...)

Is it clean? (another duh...)

Not too tall... not too short... not too large of a diameter.

And no "lip" to it...

Other than that... I can't see how anything else would effect the "taste" so long as its a clean glass...

But I guess one man's trash is another's treasure.
posted by LoopSouth at 1:11 AM on December 22, 2002

Great link, Miguel. I'm thinking of picking up a bottle of Laphroaig... I love the Islays and have never tried the king of them all, surprisingly.
posted by jammer at 1:15 AM on December 22, 2002

I understood that whiskey is fundamentally distilled beer. So the combination makes sense.

Fair enough. I'ts just that Jameson (Bushmill's too) are such delights. Jameson and Guinness?

Anyone have a favorite underdog I can try out?

Now that you mention it, I'm looking at the bottle of Bowmore across the room a little differently after such a pleasant thread.
posted by hama7 at 1:18 AM on December 22, 2002

wow, who knew booze was so complicated? i certainly had no idea.
posted by joedan at 1:29 AM on December 22, 2002

Opus Dark: e-mail Riedel. Your set-up sounds expensive and marketable enough.

Thanks for the tip, Guvnuh. Mick and Mealy send's their regards.

David C.
Murdstone and Grinby

posted by Opus Dark at 1:34 AM on December 22, 2002

y6^3 - you're not alone. but surely you've had this argument many times before? i know i have. it seems that whenever people enjoy something they find a way to waste money on it.

even being aware of this doesn't make you immune - i'm writing this on a computer that contains expensive scsi disks, for some reason that seemed terribly important when i was buying it.

and it gets worse. people then start to feel that these silly accoutrements reflect status back on them; that by spending money they become, somehow, special - experts, or particularly sophisticated, or better able to enjoy themselves, or more in touch with life.

anyway, i got up early to get out before the heat of the day. i'm going to ride my bike up some nearby foothills. at some point i'll probably pass people with disk brakes, full suspension, fancy glasses, lycra tops, frames made from weird materials, etc etc. finally, at the summit, my bike will be one of the cheapest there and it will, somehow, make me special...
posted by andrew cooke at 2:05 AM on December 22, 2002

There seems to be some scepticism as to how the shape of a glass could affect the taste of a liquid. Well, first of all, nothing is as important to the taste of the wine as the aroma and the Riedel (and similar) glasses are designed to capture the nuances and aroma of the wines. Second, the shape of the glass affects how you drink the wine. That means your mouth and tongue will come in contact with the wine differently with different wines. That may seem overly subtle, but if you want to discern the different qualities of the taste you have to be able to control the manner the liquid passes over your tastebuds. Try drinking wine with a straw from a closed container and then from a proper wine glass - there is a difference, trust me. =)
posted by cx at 3:10 AM on December 22, 2002

And what is this with bars serving mixed drinks in plastic cups? If I'm going to pay 6 dollars for a couple cents' worth of liquor I would prefer not to look like I'm about to start doing keg stands. Is this happening in civilized places, or just godforsaken backwards holes like where I live?

The bar (yes, bar as in one that has music, the other one is an OTB site) here serves everything in plastic. I hate it, but, living in the middle of nowhere you don't have many choices.
posted by SuzySmith at 5:27 AM on December 22, 2002

I have done some mild forms of experiments, because I too was skeptical when I first read about Riedel in Wine Spectator a few year's back. I believe the shape of the glass makes a difference because I can taste the difference when a decent Cab is served in a red wine glass vs. a white wine glass. (Forget whether it's Riedel or not.) What this suggests to me is that for someone who's got a better palate, the distinctions that Riedel makes for the varietals will matter. I plan to get the Cab, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay Vinums from Riedel and probably call it good, because the wines I buy at this point don't deserve more investment from that. But there's a reason champagne is served in flutes and red wine in large goblets in decent restaurants. Try drinking Bordeaux out of a champagne flute, for example -- it just doesn't taste as good.

I work with a guy who has an extensive wine cellar and experience with wine and also happens to be an MIT PhD. I asked him once if the Riedel theory was correct in his experience and he assured me that it absolutely made a difference. He and his wife have the sommelier series for most varietals.
posted by Medley at 5:32 AM on December 22, 2002

(Fewer nucleation sites=fizzier wine.)

Actually nucleation sites cause the bubbles to form. The idea is to make the scratch at the bottom of the glass so that the bubbles start at the bottom making it a prettier sight. A dirty glass will have bubbles forming all over and you'll lose your fizz in a hurry. The original Champagne was designed in the form of Marie Antoinettes breast, and was a wider than it was deep. Not at all like the "flutes" of today.

I having worked as a winemaker I'll never cease to be amazed at the snobbishness of the business by a few people. I do own some Reidel glasses, and they are very nice, but not essential to enjoying a glass of wine. To say that there is a special glass for Cabernet Sauvignon versus Chianti versus Pinot Noir is pretty silly. I just own some nice big red wine glasses and use them for everything. For professional tasting most of the places I worked used a tulip shaped glass with a bit of a chimney on it. I can just see some of the people here going to someones house for dinner and saying "WHAT? Sauvignon Blanc in a Chardonnay glass? HOW GAUCHE." Just enjoy your wine, and your company, and don't sweat the little crap. My best wine and food pairing tip : drink a wine you like.
posted by Eekacat at 5:46 AM on December 22, 2002

cx, i don't doubt both that there is an effect, and that people imagine effects that are not there. this is true of everything in life - what is amusing/sad is the amount of emotional involvement people invest in one small, isolated area, and the amount of money they spend to do so (no-one seems to be advoating buying cheap glasses to see how they "taste"). wasn't there a link here a while back saying that in america everyone can be an expert in something?

i just noticed the line above - "don't sweat the little crap" says it all so much better than my careful explanation (mefi: where the little crap is sweated).
posted by andrew cooke at 6:33 AM on December 22, 2002

Hmm. Well that raises an interesting question. Is the argument, then, Andrew, that no one should try to become an expert in anything, lest they be perceived as too 'emotionally involved'? Or, are there are areas (hobbies, pursuits, goals) that are worthy of investement of time (and money) and others that are not? And, of course, who gets to decide?

I also don't really see anyone in this thread 'sweating' the small stuff. Most wine lovers I know have the attitude that Eekacat exemplified: drink what you like. I don't see anyone saying that $30 wineglasses are essential to enjoying wine, either. Seems to me that you've set up a strawman to pummel.

I suppose there are people who can drift through life without becoming very interesting in much of anything at all -- they can adopt a kind of reverse snobbishiness ("You spend real money on that?!") and feel above all those petty interests. But, in my experience, people who are passionately interested in something, who are intellectually curious, who are willing to experiment (be it wine, quilting, html, photography, or collecting postcards) are much more interesting and stimulating people to be around than those who scoff at anyone who exhibits 'too much' investment in a particular area.
posted by Medley at 7:03 AM on December 22, 2002

I see no-one's so far mentioned Belgian beer glasses: an extreme example of this issue, where there's a long tradition of every beer having its own glass style. While brand identity is part of it, there do seem to be practical reasons for the shapes, relating to the head, carbonation, serving temperature, etc.
posted by raygirvan at 7:17 AM on December 22, 2002

First off: jammer, the king of Islays is not Laphroag, it's Lagavulin. Don't get me wrong, Laphroaig is delicious, but the king is the king.

y6, andrew, and anybody else who is reading this thread and smugly thinking "What idiots, they trick themselves into thinking what glass you drink from makes a difference!": You're wrong, and if you ever did a blind taste test you'd find out. Nobody's asking you to be wine experts, or to care about it at all (though if you don't, what are you doing in this thread?), but it amuses me that you just assume that what doesn't matter to you doesn't exist. It's like those people who don't speak any other language and therefore shout louder at foreigners to make them understand: "What you call a language is just jibber-jabber; after all, I can't understand it! My language is the only real one, and you're just pretending otherwise!" Hey, if it makes you feel better, go ahead and sneer. But you're the ones who are missing out on one of life's pleasures.

Miguel: A beer back (or a whiskey chaser) not only go well together; they're basically designed to prevent you getting too drunk (with whiskey alone) or not drunk enough (with beer).

Are you out of your cotton-pickin' Portuguese mind? I've never been so drunk (only time I've blacked out) as when I was drinking boilermakers in Ireland. Since then I've stuck to just whiskey or just beer, and have never had that kind of problem (though I've had plenty of others, like calling up old girlfriends at two in the morning).
posted by languagehat at 7:45 AM on December 22, 2002

the great majority of drinks are served in inappropriate glasses and therefore never fully enjoyed

Seems to me that you've set up a strawman to pummel.

but more than that - i've been thinking about this since posting - what i really object to is "buying expertise". i have no objection at all to people enjoying wine, or experimenting with glasses (i just bought some new wine glasses myself). what annoys me is the idea that buying a particular set of expensive glasses is somehow necessary.

an example close to my own heart is bicycle wheels. i have no idea what the best wheel makes are, but i know that i can take any basic wheel and make it just as solid and reliable as an expensive one (although it will probably be a little heavier as you're starting with different parts, but then it may well be stronger) by rebuilding it. that's because one of the things i've wasted my time on is learning how to do that. and, since that's me, i consider that just fine.

what bugs me, and what some posts in this thread seem to illustrate, are people who spend ten times the amount on a handbuilt wheel (a good one, no doubt) and consider themselves somehow enhanced by the acquisition. proud of owning the hard work of someone else.

this is difficult territory. i can understand people being proud of owning a beautiful thing, whether they made it or not, but there seems to be a second source of pride- that simply owning an object somehow gives the owner the qualities of the person that made it.

so, to be achnowledged as a consoisseur of wine amongst your peers, you buy fancy wine glasses.

that's what i'm getting it. and when i write it like that it seems so cheap - gauche was used above, i think - that i'm sure everyone will deny it. nontheless, that's what i smell here (hell, in miguel's original post, surely the stench is obvious to everyone). if you think that's a strawman then we simply have to differ, each relying on their own abilities to read the discussion...

(sorry, i know i've changed tack slightly - i've been thinking about this since posting, trying to clarify things in my own mind, using examples not unlike those you gave in your post)
posted by andrew cooke at 7:50 AM on December 22, 2002

We can all be thankfull to the Riedel familly for their relentless efforts to educate the world about the importance of the glass to enjoy wine. They sure go over the top with their endless collection - I just use their Chianti/Zinfandel Vinum for pretty much everything. Just 20 years ago it wasn't unusual to spend a lot of money on wine in a restaurant to have the precious liquid poured into tennis ball shaped glasses - up to the last millimeter of the glasstop!

Tasting wine (or anything else) is just as much being done with your nose as with your tongue. Only acidity, bitterness, saltyness and sweetness are being felt by the tongue - each at a specific spot of the tongue. All the aromas mentioned in tasting notes (blackcurrent, citrus, peach, tobacco, cedarwood, tar, roses, grass, etc.) are being felt by the nose through canals between the nasal and bucal cavities of the head. So if your nose is switched off by a cold for example, all of a sudden food is stripped of most of its appeal - the Emmantal cheese is just a lightly salted rubber-like substance.

What a good glass mainly does is:
- allow you to optimally smell your wine before drinking it thanks to its big bulb shape that helps aromatic substances to "evaporate" into the air - and keep them concentrated there.
- guide the flow of the wine directly to the specific part of the tongue that best render the wine's taste.

That also works for other beverages: I've had fun comparing milk, orange juice, olive oil and whatnot.
posted by ugly_n_sticky at 8:21 AM on December 22, 2002

andrew cooke: as I hinted in my previous post, you can over-do anything. There is no doubt in my mind that part of Riedel's appeal is its "The Best and Most Expensive" image. That's why they have the Sommelier line (50$ a glass). On the other side there is no doubt that theirs is the best and most comprehensive line of glasses world wide. Their Vinum range is excellent and affordable. Don't take their matching advice for more than what it is - an advice. I use 2 types of glasses myself: the Chianti/Zinfandel Vinum glass from Riedel and some cheap (3-4 $ a pop) lookalike (shapewise). I don't mind breaking those or putting them in the dishwasher (usually a Riedel killer). One thing remains undeniable: the glass matters.
posted by ugly_n_sticky at 8:40 AM on December 22, 2002

Much of the discussion has been focused on the shape of the glass and how that affects the nose. I have a couple Riedel glasses which I don't use too much because of the lead content. But, what I enjoy most about them is the edge of the rim. They are crisply cut but are not sharp.

I can't explain it but it does make the wine more enjoyable. I have found it difficult to truly appreciate a fine wine now from a glass with a rolled lip.
posted by paleocon at 8:43 AM on December 22, 2002

*WOW* - 50 comments on the 'Glasses' post?

I'm covering Nose hair trimming devices next!
posted by troutfishing at 8:45 AM on December 22, 2002

(sorry, i'm taking room up that no-one else is listening to, i suspect - last post here). i just wanted to add one point that i think joins "buying expertise" with "sweating the small stuff".

if you understand something, you know the practicalities. you know that the important thing about a bike wheel is that it keeps its shape. the important thing about a wine glass is that it keeps the aroma (or whatever). but that knowledge is separate from any particular product - any well built wheel, any "good" wine glass, is ok. you know the point where individual variations becomes important and it's impossible to proclaim one particular make better than another.

so if you understand something you know where the rules stop. you don't argue that certain grape variety requires a special shape glass because you know that the variations within the variety can be huge - is an errazuriz corton cabernet sauvignon made from the same grapes as concha y torro's casillera del diablo, for example? and how does "delivery to the tongue" work when people's mouths are different sizes and shapes? different size whisky glasses for different size mouths? different size brandy glasses for different size noses?

so there's a point when sweating the small stuff - talking about product rather than experience - is an indication that someone doesn't understand; that they're trying to replace expertise with a brand name...
posted by andrew cooke at 8:48 AM on December 22, 2002

If you like cycling, Andrew, you want the special Rieder Chilean Tourists Picnic Set: two glasses each for each varietal (one for low altitude quaffing, one for high) and a customized elbow-side carafe (with its own little Burberrys mac) for when changing bicycle wheels in the rain. If you buy before December 31 you get a free replica of the brandy snifter Mrs Thatcher sent Pinochet when he was arrested.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:48 AM on December 22, 2002

paleocon: drinking wine is a sensual experience, Riedel knows that very well. The sharp defined rim is supposed to be part of their "wine flow technology", but I believe too it just feels so good to the lips. And look at the Sommelier glasses: hand made beauties - so sexy. If only they didn't break so easely!

And for the curious reader: the Riedel family has been in the glassmaking business art since 1678.
posted by ugly_n_sticky at 9:34 AM on December 22, 2002

To Vidiot (who posted the question WAY up at the top) - we've been using Spiegalau for several years now and been very happy. No, they're not quite as solid feeling as the Riedels, but they can usually be had starting at around $7 a pop. This puts them in the price league as crappy glasses! When they need to be replaced we'll probably go with the Riedels, but for now I'm very happy with them.
posted by mpemulis at 10:41 AM on December 22, 2002

a great glass for drinking Scottish ale and British ale.
posted by goethean at 11:29 AM on December 22, 2002

simply owning an object somehow gives the owner the qualities of the person that made it.

I don't think it's got anything to do with a transfer of qualities for most people, it has to do with educating yourself about things so that you know what to look for when selecting a given item. It's about taking pleasure and satisfaction from owning exactly the right thing for your purposes. To use your bicycle wheel example, not everyone knows how, or can be bothered, to make a perfect bicycle wheel, but that doesn't preclude them knowing what qualities to look for in a bicycle wheel made by someone else. True connoisseurs of anything don't care about owning the most prestigious or most expensive item in their area of obsession, they care about owning the item which best exemplifies the qualities they consider important (which is, on preview, more or less what you just said, so I'll shut up now).
posted by biscotti at 11:36 AM on December 22, 2002

Being aggressively unacquisitive is just as sensible as being aggressively acquisitive. It is merely less normal.
posted by Opus Dark at 1:08 PM on December 22, 2002

"They sure go over the top with their endless collection"

Or more to the point, they feed on the snobbish pretensions of people who want to believe a beverage will taste better in a $50 glass than it will in a $3 glass of the same shape.

Tonight I'll be cooking baked clams in champagne sauce with prosciutto, and chicken cutlets in a truffle avocado cream sauce. I'll use some ingredients I grew out on my balcony. After dinner I'll settle in to watch some MST3K while sipping port in my $1.99 aperitif glass which I picked up at Cost Plus. While it is slightly lopsided and has an air bubble in the glass, the port will taste just as good as it would out of anything Riedel could come up with.

"well drink your champagne in your beloved's pink slipper, I don't care."

And I hope you wouldn't. Nothing personal. Snobbish rationalizations of excess just happen to be my hot button #1.

"No 20 year old Barolos for you"

Exactly. Because you do not have the proper breeding and education. The finer things would be wasted on you.
posted by y6y6y6 at 4:20 PM on December 22, 2002

I find this entire thread extremely amusing. It's like reading an argument between Petronella Wyatt and Jeremy Clarke from The Spectator.
posted by Bletch at 4:34 PM on December 22, 2002

Fair enough. I'ts just that Jameson (Bushmill's too) are such delights. Jameson and Guinness?

That's a bit less anacronistic than my favorite UK combination: sipping Irish Mist and chasing with Old Peculiar. There's something about drinking an Irish Whiskey with a British beer that seems somehow just wrong to me - but these two in combination are sublime.

I don't get real excited about the cost of my glasswear but I do use different stems for different varieties. My general feel is that the sweeter the wine is, the more I want it to breathe and contribute "nose" during drinking - so I use more of the cru style with the wide opening. The drier a wine is, the less I want it to breathe and contribute "nose" during drinking - hence a narrower the opening. Just my tastes on that! They've already learned at a local restaurant not to bring me a Belgian beer with a pilsner glass (cru style please) and curse the establishment that serves wheat beer without the proper glass - they should be flayed alive...
posted by RevGreg at 12:37 AM on December 23, 2002

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