I have to admit my interest level for the Good Food & Wine Show (GFWS) jumped through the roof when I found out one of the main sponsors for the event is Riedel. I have long been a fan of the Austrian glassware company.
When I was merely 18 I was lucky enough to have my first sip out of a Riedel glass and straightaway I knew that they are the ultimate wine drinking vessels. The basic concept behind Riedel glasses is that the rims and general shapes of the glasses help to enhance the different aromas and flavours of different grape varieties.
I have worked on and off in the wine industry for the last 11 years and I already know how amazing these glasses are, however I couldn’t miss the opportunity to sign myself up for a class with them at this year’s GFWS in Perth.
The class was held at 2pm on each day of the show. The “Glass Tasting” was an hour long and cost $99. The best bit, is that alongside having the awesome experience of going to the class you got to take home a set of 4 glasses from the XL series (Riesling, Oaked Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Cabernet Sauvignon). The set is valued at $280 so you are definitely getting bang for your buck.
The Riedel Wine Theatre at the show was well set up; it was a large cordoned off area with decent lighting and high white tables. Being the wine geek that I am, I sat right up the front. When I sat down, in front of me on the table was a placemat with 5 glasses sitting atop. It was love at first sight; the glasses were delicate and voluptuous. There is nothing I like more than a huge glass to enjoy my wine from. Yes it is true, bigger is better in my books! I was in for a good hour with these 4 glasses and many more to come once I got them home.
The first person to appear on stage was Australian Wine Educator and the man behind the Grape Expectations website, Rob Hicks. He explained about the history of the Wine Theatre at the GFWS and introduced us to our host, Riedel Australia’s CEO, Mark Baulderstone.
With the right about of humour and excellent advice, the hour flew by very quickly. Mark not only told us about how a wine can smell and taste different in different glasses but we physically experienced it for ourselves. By the end of the tasting I am sure everyone walked out utterly convinced of changing to the Riedel religion. We truly witnessed a holy wine miracle.
I liked Mark’s approach to drinking wine; he isn’t your typical ‘wine wanker’ as they say. He simply stated ‘wine: it’s all about fun’. It is an awesome philosophy that I too share and so should everyone. It is about your senses enjoying the tastes and smells of what’s in your glass. What I learnt during this class through our various tastings is that this enjoyment can be enhanced immensely with the right glass.
The different shapes help to bring out the aroma of the wine as well as helping guide the flow of the wine into your mouth to hit certain parts of your mouth, which are called your tactile senses.
Mark explained to us that a great way of understanding the world of tasting wine is to learn the difference between what is smell and what is taste. It sounds simple enough doesn’t it? However there is more to it than meets the nose.
Amazingly 70-80% of what you pick up in a wine comes from your sense of smell. Therefore by just smelling a wine, you know whether you want to be drinking it or sending it on its way down the plughole. Through the aromatics of a wine you pick up those lovely fruit notes, or perhaps floral notes or even earthy farmyard smells.
It is your sense of taste that picks up these things called tactile senses. The simplest explanation I can come up with is: how the wine feels in your mouth is your tactile senses. These tactile elements include; sweet, bitter, sour, dry and sharp flavours. After it was explained to me like this, I began to understand that the context of aroma versus what I pick up on my palate is quite a different thing.
As we went through the tasting, Mark reminded us each time to pay particular attention to the tactile senses in our mouths when we sip the wine. We would try a wine in the proper Riedel glass for the grape variety, afterwards we would move it to a different Riedel glass made for a different grape variety and lastly we would move it onto a standard crapy, ‘show’ tasting glass. Honestly, if I had all the glasses lined up in front of me and was doing the tasting blind I no doubt would of said that they were all completely different wines. There was that much of a difference.
The four wines we tried were:
Peter Lehmann 2011 Eden Valley Riesling from the Barossa Valley
Devils Corner 2011 Oaked Chardonnay from Tasmania
Babich 2010 Winemakers’ Reserve Pinot Noir from Marlborough
O’Leary Walker 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon from Adelaide Hills
The wines that we tried were perfectly balanced, well-made wines that had immaculate overall mouth feel. So the question is, were the wines simply a good choice, or are the glasses really sent from Dionysus, the wine god himself?
The great thing is that now that I have my own set I can test the theory over and over again. Lucky for me, my favourite wine from the tasting, the Babich, had a stall just up from the Wine Theatre so I was able to get a great deal and pick up 2 bottles for $50 on my way out. I am looking forward to pouring it into my Riedel XL Pinot glass and relaxing in a nice hot bubble bath next week.
PS: My final tip for the post that I picked up from the class was to never pour more than 150mls or one quarter of the glasses capacity (whatever comes first) in order to best experience the wine. Overfilling a wine glass will make it hard to swirl and smell, and we know how important smell is now don’t we.