New York Wine Tasting: How I Became a Wine Glass Snob
by Lisa Grossman
>> Can a glass really make a difference when tasting wine?
There is no doubt in my mind that I am a nightmare for any and all waiters, sommeliers, and bartenders. When I enter a restaurant, I always glance at the tables, sizing up the glassware. When I order a bottle of wine, I quiz the server about the restaurant's stemware. I refuse to order an expensive bottle of wine unless I am assured that I'll be provided with the appropriate glass. Is there something wrong with me?
For those of you who have experienced wine tasting tours in California, France, or specialty regions, you may have heard the buzz about wine actually tasting better when drunk from certain stemware. When I heard about this phenomenon, I, like many typical wine drinkers, was totally skeptical.
So, having just opened a wine shop in New York City - a virtual neophyte in the wine business - I decided to see what the buzz was all about. I invited 18 friends and associates for a wine glass tasting to see if we could find some answers.
Tory Margolis, from Riedel Crystal, a world-renowned wine glass or stemware company, offered to be our guide, challenging us to taste the difference. She presented each of us with a five-piece place setting that included four different Riedel Vinum Extreme stems, plus a fifth, which was a "joker" (a basic wine glass).
We began our tour with a California Chardonnay. About 1-2 ounces of Chardonnay was poured into each of our Riedel Chardonnay stems. We were then asked to swirl the wine in the glass. (The swirling was so much fun, in fact, that I almost lost track of our mission!) We were then instructed to smell the bouquet, which is the scent of the wine. I stuck my nose in the glass - MMMMM - fantastic (the wine produced notes of almond and caramel). Then it was time for the big moment, the moment wine lovers love best. We put the glass to our lips and took a sip. Yes, the wine was delicious. But, ahhh . . . was the wine delicious simply because of the glass?
Tory then poured the very same Chardonnay into our "jokers" and we performed the exact same swirling, smelling, and tasting rituals.
The swirling was much less dramatic (not much room to swirl). I then stuck my nose into the joker in search of the wine's unique aromas. "Hey," I shouted. "What happened to the beautiful aromas of caramel and nuts?" The scent of the wine had completely disappeared!!
Astounded, I began to scan to room. I noticed that everyone around the table looked at each other in utter amazement as if to ask, "did you lose the smell of your wine, too?" We then put the joker glass to our lips and took a sip. "WHAT!!!" It was unbelievable. The full-bodied delicious wine now tasted like (would you believe?) water!!! The aroma, the taste, it had all disappeared! It was an amazing experience for all of us.
We continued our wine tasting tour, using different wines in different glasses. The results were always the same. The Riedel stemware consistently produced the best bouquet and best taste. But, there was more. . .
Tory taught us that there is wine-specific stemware (a topic for an article all by itself). In addition, the shape of the glass, which dictates where on the tongue the wine lands, is an important wine-enjoyment factor as right taste buds (those susceptible to sweet or sour) enhance the way you experience the flavor of wine. For more information, go to Riedel's "The Content Determines the Shape" page.
So, that was the day I became a Wine Glass Snob, armed with the intelligence to torture the best restaurant and bar professionals by making sure their wine service is right.
As a New York wine shop owner myself, I now recommend that my customers invest in stemware, explaining that the glasses will, indeed, "make your $15 bottle of wine taste like a $25 bottle." Some laugh, but others give it a try. The latter, eternally grateful, always come back for more. I suggest you experiment by buying a few glasses on your own, the most popular being Riedel Crystal and Spiegelau, or by visiting a reputable wine shop for a demonstration.
You might also be interested in The Sommelier: A Touch of Glass, an article on New York Magazine's site that discusses the importance of proper stemware when drinking wine.
Questions or comments?
Or . . .
Littleviews' Publisher, Karen Little
BACCHUS WINE TASTING MADE SIMPLE
BETWEEN 70TH AND 71ST STREETS
NEW YORK, NY 10023
Article and photo supplied by Lisa Grossman, owner of Bacchus Wines in New York City. First published on 2/6/2005. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.