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09.27.2004

Riedel vs. Spiegelau is now settled....

Forever and a day, people have been arguing about the role that glasses play in the taste of wine. The shape, the stem, the crystal -- everyone has an opinion, especially the manufacturers who tout their wares as the BEST way to taste your wine. Lending credence to some of those who think the whole debate is an overblown mess and that, barring a few key parameters a glass is a glass, is this recent news tidbit: Riedel, maker of wine glasses that are so much better than their competitor, just bought Spiegelau, whose wine glasses are so much better than their competitor. In a surprising move, Riedel says they will keep the Spiegelau brand alive and continue to sell their glasses without redesigning them, which begs the question, were Riedel that much better anyway...?

See the full story here.

Comments (11)

09.28.04 at 7:25 AM

And have you seen the recent research that shows fairly well that the whole thing is a bunch of hooey? They blindfolded people and held the glass up to them (they didn't get to hold it) after swirling. Didn't matter what the glass was, people smelled the same thing.

So why do zillions of professionals and amateurs swear by it? The hypothesis posed by the experimenters is that the feel of the glass and the look of it enhance the wine at a psychological level. The wine smells better because it's more aesthetic in the right glass.

Gastronomie wrote:
09.28.04 at 11:04 AM

Wow... fascinating.

Guess I better stock up on my (ridiculously underpriced) Spiegelaus from Amazon.com while I can.

Personally, I really *do* experience a difference. And frankly, it's what got my formerly non-oenophile husband interested in the whole thing. They physics of it all fascinate him!

Kieca wrote:
09.28.04 at 11:30 AM

I use Spiegelaus and like them a lot, but am easy to please, I think. I mostly agree with a wine instructor I had once (Bruce Cass, who is hilarious) who said something along the lines of "it doesn't matter what brand glass it is, but the bigger the better-- and not falling to your knees crying when one breaks is a good thing, too". I know that is a gross generalization, but I am much less bothered by cheaper glasses as long as they are around the right size, than I am by those horrible tiny cheap ones you get in some restaurants. You know, the ones where your nose is actually outside the glass when you try to drink.

I kind of wonder what would happen if you did a blind tasting with fine wine in crappy glasses versus not so good wine in the proper glass.

Of course, in a pinch, because I didn't have enough (we were slowly breaking all the red wine glasses we had) I served red wine in (generously sized Spiegelau) white wine glasses, so maybe I am just crazy.

Kieca wrote:
09.28.04 at 11:33 AM

And duh, I do know that the wrong glass can affect wine sensation, but I am wondering how bad the glass has to be (size, shape, composition) before it really affects the taster.

Alder wrote:
09.28.04 at 11:39 AM

In my experience, glasses don't really do much to affect the taste of wine, but they dramatically change the aromas or the nose. I recently found a a sauvignon blanc to be very different in aromatic character when served in a large speigelau bordeax glass and in an ordinary restauarant white wine glass. Niether was particularly better but the aroma profiles were very different.

To specifically answer your question, though, Keica, I think any glass you can't get your nose into and any glass that is wider at the lip than it is at the shoulder make for bad tasting experiences.

Kieca wrote:
09.28.04 at 11:44 AM

Yeah, same here (it's all in the nose, and boy, it seems like a butterfly dying in China can affect the nose of a glass of pinot noir in Wisconsin, doesn't it?). Although I have noted that some of the restaurants who use those glasses serve wine you probably don't want to smell anyway! I mean, I can let them go when it is the local hole-in-the-wall whatever, but am surprised when it is a nice restaurant and they bring a decent bottle with those kiddie glasses (unbreakable! and child sized!)

Next time I open a bottle I will dig out a few different glasses and compare.

Charles Curtis wrote:
09.28.04 at 1:52 PM

Regarding glass shape, I have always been a fan of the INAO tasting glass, which is ideally formed and relatively inexpensive. The glass has two drawbacks however - it doesn't hold a lot of wine, and it is not as readily available here as it is in the EU and the UK. If you have a source, I'd buy a couple dozen.

Gastronomie wrote:
09.28.04 at 4:54 PM

Charles -

I found these glasses at www.winehardware.com. Their minimum order is pretty large (around 200 pieces), but one could certainly purchase them with friends and/or a local restaurant.

HugeJ wrote:
09.29.04 at 11:42 AM

Take the HJWOW challenge: Pour 4oz. of Chardonnay into 5 Reidel/Spiegelau "Chardonnay" glasses and 1 "Burgundy" glass. Have a friend mix up the glasses and blindfold you. If what they claim is true, then you should be able to pick out the Burgundy glass by taste every single time. Try it, you'll be surprised what your preconceived notions (marketing) can lead you to taste (or not taste). Its quite revealing....

/huge

Alicia wrote:
09.29.04 at 3:37 PM

When the glass we used was discontinued, we tasted our wines in new sample glasses to see which showed best. The one we chose was a 16 oz. tulip-shaped leaded crystal glass from Luminarc. It's designed for whites, but even the reds showed better in it (I think the taller shape encourages people to swirl more and get their nose deeper into the glass, but that's just my personal theory). It beat out the Riedel tasting glass, which is pressed glass and kind of thick with a really short stem. As it turns out, several other wineries nearby had also recently switched to our exact glass. And they cost us less than $4.00 wholesale, including printing the logo on the side.

Bob Summers wrote:
02.12.06 at 2:50 AM

There really are differences. Sure, there's not much difference between Spiegelau and Riedel Bordeaux stems, so I buy the Spiegelaus. Differences between Burgundy stems are much more apparent. There is more to this than just how a glass makes a wine smell. Riedels are designed to deliver the wine to the palate in a way that enhances the tasting of a particular varietal.

Recently, there was a sale on Lennox stems (c.$7.00)that are very similar in shape to the hand blown Riedel Sommellier stems. When we put them to the test, we noticed that the Riedel Somms spread the wine across the tongue, while the Lennox stems sent the wine plummeting to the center of the tongue like a waterslide.

That said the Somms exposed the flaws in a few young CA Pinots we used for the tests, while the same wines from the Lennox stems were much more enjoyable. To this day, we still use the Lennox for young CA Pinot. The opposite was true for mature Grand Cru Burgundy. The wines tasted fine (well, they'd better) from the Lennox stems, but from the Somms, there were so many more aromas and flavors interspersed between the basics; like a peacock spreading it's feathers.

The Somms are a waste of money for the large Pinot tastings. I have to stifle a chuckle when I see them there. They have the capacity to hold well over a bottle of wine in each glass. A 1.5 oz pour is lost in there and lots of coaxing or time (that you don't have) is necessary to get any nose at all.

Comparing the Riedel Vinum Burgs with the Spiegelaus, you won't notice much difference between two 4 oz pours. If you attend a lot of offlines or bring your own stems to Pinot tastings that offer only the small logo'd tasting glasses, you'll notice quite a lot of difference when the pours get down to the 3/4 - 1 1/2 oz range. The Spiegelaus are deeply `V' shaped at the bottom so a small pour doesn't do as much aerating prior to swirling. The Riedels are very flat in comparison and offer a much better tasting experience. I have Riedels for Pinots. One problem though, is that you will likely get short pours because your glass will look like there's more there due to the flat bottom.

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