Guide to Reidel Stemware

♫ You say “tom – at – ooh” . . . I say “tom – ate – oh”
You say “Rye – dell” . . . I say “Ree – dle”
Tom – at – ooh . . . “tom – ate – oh”
“Rye – dell” . . . “Ree – dle”
Let’s learn the right way. . . just so we can then show off ♪

As you may know Riedel [proper pronunciation is Ree–dle] has garnered a world-wide reputation as the maker of the best glass ware for the enjoyment of wines and other alcoholic beverages. Many wonder ‘what is all the fuss about?’ Sure, the glasses are attractive, but then so are a lot of other glasses. I have always found it interesting to learn others’ views regarding what they consider an appropriate wine glass.

glass1Having both lived in Italy for a period of time and been raised in an Italian family I can attest to the fact that an Italian wine glass is a stubby tumbler of thick glass, resembling a juice glass. Well, it started out as juice, didn’t it? My dear father taught me his personal philosophy that ‘what the wine glass or dinner plate look like is of little importance; what is most important is what is in the glass or on the plate’. Among his many talents, my father learned to live simply, work hard, and make a great Zinfandel.

My own husband has been overhead defining a wine glass as ‘any vessel capable of holding liquids, which does not leak.’ Of course, he says this in jest. At least I like to think he does. He too lives simply, works hard, and makes a great Zinfandel.

Robert Parker has been quoted as stating, ‘I know of no finer tasting or drinking glasses than the glasses from Riedel. All of this may sound absurdly high-brow or esoteric, but the effect of these glasses on fine wines is profound. I cannot emphasize enough what a difference they make.’ How he lives, works, or makes Zinfandel is unknown to me.

I have had the good fortune to attend a special tasting intended to showcase the sophistication and benefit of drinking wines from Riedel glasses. This tasting took place at Vista 18 in the Chateau Victoria (in Victoria, BC). Prior to this tasting, I had used Riedel glasses on occasion (and confess to even owning a few) however what I learned at that session, and since then, is plentiful. Some of what I learned can also be applied to stemware other than Riedel.

Expensive glasses are mouth-blown and hand-made; while more affordable glasses are machine-made. You may have noticed that some wine glasses have a rolled rim, which inhibits the smooth flow of wine and tends to accentuate acidity and harshness. Riedel chooses to grind down the rim to enhance the tasting experience; permitting the wine to flow smoothly onto the tongue. Some rims are hand-ground; while others are machine ground – each step is reflected in the price.

Did you know, the higher the crystal content, the more flex exists in the stemware? You can test the flex of a glass by holding it firmly to the surface of a table by its base, using two fingers of one hand to do so and use the other hand to gently wobble the bowl back and forth. The more wobble (or flex), the higher the crystal content.

The tasting consisted of tasting 4 different wines from 4 different Riedel glasses (Vinum XL Series) and, for just fun, a plastic cup.

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Riedel Montrachet

The Montrachet glass (used in tasting a 2008 Oaked Chardonnay) was created for full bodied white wines with moderate acidity. The glass directs the wine to the center of the tongue, bringing all of the components into perfect harmony.

The Riesling Grand Cru glass was made for light fruity white wines that are high in acidity. The glass was designed to guide the wine to the tip of the tongue, accentuating the fruit and deemphasizing the naturally high acid.

The Pinot Noir glass (used to taste a 2007 Pinot Noir) has been specifically shaped for red wines with high acidity and moderate tannin and directs the wine to the tip of the tongue, highlighting the fruit and balancing the natural high acidity.

The Cabernet Sauvignon glass (used to taste a 2007 Bordeaux-style wine) has been designed for highly tannic red wines of moderate acidity; directing the wine to the center of the tongue, creating an harmony of fruit, tannin and acidity.

Many have asked. . . and, yes, size does matter. The size of the wine glass will affect the quality and intensity of aromas. Basically, the larger the surface area, the more aromas. The breathing space has to be chosen according to the characteristics of the wine or spirit. Red wines require large glasses; white wines medium-sized glasses; and spirits, small glasses to emphasize the fruit character and not the alcohol level.

I can tell you that tasting the 2008 Oaked Chardonnay from the Montrachet glass was certainly more enjoyable than drinking it from the other 3 Riedel glasses. The Montrachet glass brought out the creaminess of the malolactic fermentation and enhanced the vanilla aroma from the oak. When poured in the Riesling Grand Cru glass, the Chardonnay aromas became lighter, the buttery characteristic disappeared and a slight bitterness came through in the finish. What about the plastic cup you ask? Do I really need to go there? Suffice it to say there was barely any aroma at all, the wine became bitter in the mouth and the finish was very short.

Tasting the 2007 Pinot Noir from the Riedel Pinot Noir glass brought out the fruit characteristics which were well balanced with the oak; there was also an enjoyable mushroom aroma; nice tannins. When the same wine was tasted from the Montrachet glass, the fruit aromas were lighter and there was a flinty flavour. The finish, however, remained the same. When this wine was tasted from the Riesling Grand Cru glass, the wine became more aromatic but less flavourful in the mouth. Asking about the plastic cup, again? Again, really? Well, the wine tasted bitter, stemmy, and sour.

I am now convinced. Using the correct glass does enhance one’s wine tasting experience. I encourage you to try it yourself. This would make for a fun tasting with a group of friends. If you don’t own Riedel glasses, try using any 4 wine glasses, varying in shape and size. Try it with 3 or 4 different varietals. See which wine is better suited to which glass. You may not get the experience of tasting the wine at its peak, if not using a specifically shaped wine glass from Riedel, but I am confident that you will be convinced that size and shape do matter.

When shopping for Riedel glasses, one may become confused by the different packaging of Riedel wine glasses and different prices, depending where you see them for sale. Apparently not all Riedel glasses are created equal. Not until my recent research did I learn of the many series of glassware that Riedel offers, in 3 price categories (exclusive, moderate, and competitive). Some series are mouth-blown, hand-made glass, with the rim hand-ground while others are machine-blown glass and the rim is machine-ground. Some have lead-crystal; others are lead-free crystal.

If you are looking to purchase Riedel glassware, you will want to explore the different series offered:

  • Sommeliers – come in 10 sizes – Exclusive price category
  • Sommeliers Black Tie – red wine glasses feature a tall black stem and white wine glasses feature a black base with crystal stem – Exclusive price category
  • Vitis – the tallest machine-made lead crystal glass with grape variety specific bowls on a pulled stem – Moderate price category
  • Tyrol
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    Tyrol Series

    low height allows for daily use because of easy dishwashing;  10 different sizes with each bowl specific for the enjoyment of popular grape varieties – Moderate price category

  • Vinum – the first machine-made series of glasses in history based exclusively on quality, reasonable price, and wide distribution; very popular amongst consumers and restaurateurs; considered to be the wine glass for every day use; made of over 24% lead crystal – Moderate price category
  • Vinum XL
    reidel2

    VINUM XL Cabernet Sauvignon Pinot Noir

    machine-blown  –  wine glass shapes for major Grape varietals such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Champagne as well as cocktails and martinis – Moderate price category

  • Vinum Extreme – is the latest development in Riedel’s machine-made “Gourmet Glass Concept” – Moderate price category
  • Grape@Reidel – this wine friendly stemware designs are based the exceptional characteristics of each grape variety, which in turn determines the shape, size and rim diameter of the bowl – identifiable by an indent on the bottom of the bowl, reflecting the light and adding another dimension to the lively color of wine – machine made, pulled stem, lead crystal – Moderate price category
  • Wine – this collection was created for customers desiring a more decorative looking glass – the decorative light-catching stem is coupled with Vinum’s most popular bowls – functional, wine-specific, machine-blown glasses – lead free crystal – Competitive price category
  • Ouverture – an uncomplicated beginner series for whose who appreciate good, reasonably priced wine – come in six sizes – lead free – ideal for everyday use – Competitive price category
  • O-Reidel – This series is presented by Maximillian Riedel (11th generation).
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    O-Riedel

    This series having no stem or base, is a new innovative take on the wine tumbler. In short (no pun intended), this is the ideal glass for everyday use It fits in every dishwasher, picnic basket, mini-bar or small kitchen. Broken stems are a thing of the past. Also, the glass is not as easily tipped over. This series has been finely-tuned to enhance grape varietals such as: Cabernet/Merlot, Pinot/Nebbiolo, Syrah/Shiraz, Chardonnay, Viognier/Chardonnay, Riesling/Sauvignon – non-lead, machine-blown, glass series (half the price of Riedel Vinum glasses) – Competitive price category

Of course, once you have made the investment in purchasing high quality stemware you will want to learn its proper care and handling.

Avoid chiming your wine glasses at the rim when making a toast. Instead, chose to chime your glasses “belly to belly.” This prevents the risk of chipping the rim of your stemware and avoids tiny particles of glass/crystal falling into the food, should an accident occur.

Stemware is made from 3 separate parts: the bowl, the stem, the base. This leaves the stemware susceptible to break easily at each point of fusion. The most common error in washing stemware is in how the glass is held. Commonly, we hold the glass by the base with one hand and apply pressure (and a cleaning cloth) to the bowl of the glass, twisting and turning as we clean. This can result in the stem snapping off . . . of course, if you prefer stem-less glasses, you may consider purchasing the O-Riedel series of glasses.

The proper way to clean your stemware is to:

• Wash under warm water (detergent not necessary) [personally, I prefer to kill all bacteria and germs]
• Place the glass on a linen cloth to drain; [I just use my kitchen towel of soft cotton]
• For extra shine, steam the glass over boiling water [I confess to skipping this step every time]
• Polish the glass, using 2 microfibre crystal towels [again, I just use a soft cotton cloth]
• Hold the glass by the base and polish the base and stem [I skip this step and go directly to the next]
• Use your left hand to cradle the bowl of the glass and polish with your right hand [reverse for lefties]
• Never twist the base and bowl

Not sure if that glass handed to you had been mouth-blown, hand-made, with a hand-ground rim or a more affordable machine-made version? Simply check for the trademarks, shown below:

 

reidel4Trademark used to distinguish hand-made products

 

reidel5Trademark used to mark products made by machine

 

Riedel also offers a beautiful range of decanters (available in both mouth-blown/hand-made and machine-made). Christian Moueix, a highly acclaimed French winemaker and successful businessman, suggests decanting both old and new wines. Decanting old wines shortly before serving will ensure the wine’s clarity and brilliance, allowing it to be rid of any sediment that may have developed over time. He suggests decanting young wines for several hours before they are served, giving the wine an opportunity to “bloom and attain a stage of development that normally requires years of aging”.
There you have it folks! All the info I absorbed and just in time for gift-giving to your special Valentine. May your heart always be filled with love and your glass never run dry.

 

BIO:

Mary Homer is an artisan winemaker with her husband, Rick.  Together they have been making award winning wines since 1992; igniting their hobby into a passion.  They live in Victoria, BC with their two dogs and belong to the BC Amateur Winemakers Association, BC Guild of Wine Judges, and the Saanich Sommeliers wine club.  Mary enjoys learning about ‘all things wine’ and sharing her experiences with others.