A few weeks ago I was having lunch at a fancy new modern bistro on top of an equally fancy new downtown department store, over which everyone’s gone ga-ga.
The food was good, the service too, and the company delightful. But the stemware was downright clunky. Given the perceived cachet of the store, I was surprised. But, then again, maybe I wasn’t—because, often as not, surprisingly, and sadly, glasses are all too often given short shrift.
In the clear light of the new year, that has me thinking (again) about just how much even a little money well spent on decent stemware will reward in a very short time. That’s especially true—if like me—you tend to buy a lot of ‘value’ wines.
It’s an interesting paradox that (more) expensive wine glasses are sometimes perceived in the context of wine snobbery rearing its ugly head. In fact, nothing can be farther from the truth.
It’s not that I object to restaurants (or people) who want to pour wine into Duralex tooth tumblers. But why bother, when cranberry juice, Budweiser Lite or whatever will probably taste just as good?
Riedel: the full spectrum
The point being: the right glass will improve just about any kind of wine. And you don’t have to build an extension to your dining room to house 57 varieties. Even though—should you be so inclined—255 year old Riedel does make a glass for just about every style of wine known.
You want a glass for sherry? White Burgundy (as opposed to California Chardonnay)? Icewine, even? Riedel has one—and the difference between using the right and wrong wine glass can be like night and day. I had my conversion during a Riedel blind tasting. And I’ll never go back to clunky.
Sommeliers get it, too
There’s a school of thought that the more you spend on a good bottle of wine, the more attention you should pay to the glass you drink it from. It’s one of the reasons we have sommeliers. They’re there to guide you to a wine that suits (not just the food but your wallet), as well as pour it into the right (and properly polished) glassware.
Ever wonder how sommeliers make it to the top of their game? You can catch the 2nd annual, Best Sommelier of BC Competition, hosted by The Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers, BC Chapter. It’s a hard fought, almost cut-throat contest, complete with blind tasting elements and tableside service judging. Monday January 25, 2016, at Rogers Arena. Free admission, with a small charge for the afterparty.
Good glass works for all price levels
In our house we use three kinds of Riedel glasses for still wines. The Bordeaux glass will more than do well for most reds and red blends. In fact, almost without fail, it will show the wine in a kinder light possibly than its due.
An exception? Pinot Noir, which will always show better in a red Burgundy glass. (Riedel also suggests you use a specific glass for Syrah—and if you’re a frequent Shiraz / Syrah drinker you might go that route.)
For most whites we use the Riesling O Glass, which, again, is more than just serviceable. (Although, if you’re into Burgundy you’ll want the white burgundy glass.)
Enter the Big ‘O’
The biggest shift in the last few years has been rise of the stemless Riedel ‘O’ Glass. It’s more robust and much less vulnerable in the sink. But beware the legion of clunky, thick rimmed ‘O’ Glass imitators. Whether stemmed or ‘O’, it’s that fine crystal rim and specific trajectory that launches the liquid to the right spot on you tongue.
Now is a good time to look around for Riedel and other good crystal producers, with quite a few on sale. Trust me: It’s a worthwhile investment. More at Riedel.com
Here’s a duo of decent drops to test drive in those new glasses …
Undurraga Sibaris Pinot Noir 2013 (Leyda, Chile)
A light to medium bodied Pinot that’s surprisingly complex for the money but indicative of what’s happening in Leyda. It will reward even more in a Burgundy glass. Red berries on top, with assertive tannins and a good fruit acid balance, a touch of spice and lingering close. BCLS $13.99, 90 pts
Spier Chenin Blanc 2014 (Western Cape)
It’s tough to beat this food friendly wine for value. First come aromas of apple, pear and citrus, followed by good acidity and leesy viscosity, with an edge of citrus zest. Think goat cheese or white Spring salmon. BCLS $12.69, 90 pts.