Friday, September 5, 2008

It’s not just what is IN the glass that matters….

Imagine that you have been driving expensive high powered sports cars for years…

…Porches…Ferraris… Lamborghinis… Corvettes…

You have spent a lot of money in order to enjoy driving the fastest thing on the road.

Then one day someone pointed out to you that you had the parking break on.

“The what?” you reply.

He points out to you that the entire time you have been driving you have had the break on and it dawns on you that you have always had it on.

You reach down, take off the break and suddenly you discover a whole new level of performance, power and speed that you didn’t know your automobile was capable of.

You had always thought of yourself as a sports car enthusiast… but now you have a new level of awareness as you say to yourself, “Wow, I’ve been missing out on so much for so long!”

Have you ever had a great wine at a winery, bought a bottle and then later when you got it home it didn’t seem to live up to what you had experienced at the winery?

The problem may not be in the wine, it may be the glass you are drinking from. Many high-end wineries use top of the line wine glasses (especially Reidel) which are not made from glass, but rather from crystal. But if you purchase their expensive wines and then drink them from the wrong type of glass you will cut short the wine’s ability to fully express itself.

Last night we had a Reidel crystal wine glass demonstration in a class I am taking at Los Positas College and I was absolutely amazed to discover what a huge difference the stemware makes. Not just the quality of the glass, but the design of the stemware makes a huge impact on how you experience the particular varietal of wine.

I own a few Reidel crystal wine glasses and I have been to many wineries that use them in sit-down tasting rooms. But I had never had a side by side comparison of the same wine in different glasses to discover what difference that not only the quality of the stemware makes but the size and shape as well.

Taste a $20 dollar Sauvignon Blanc from the right Reidel crystal wine glass and you will discover all that it has to offer on the nose and palate – honeysuckle, lime, passion fruit, lemon peel, yellow grapefruit, mineral and a little spice. Put that same wine in the wrong glass and the aromas are muted, the wine seems more acidic, the longevity of the follow through is shortened and over all it tastes more like a $10 bottle of wine. Then pout that same wine back into the correct Reidel crystal wine glass and all the flavors and smells you had previously enjoyed immediately come right back! Put that same wine into the wrong Reidel crystal wine glass, say one made for Pinot Noir, and you’ll again miss the full pleasure that the wine has to offer.

How can this be?

Just as different grapes need different soils and climates to fully express their God-given grandeur so also the wine from these grapes needs to be aerated for you nose and arrive on your tongue in a particular manner in order to fully convey what they have to offer.

In other words, a $100 Bordeaux could taste like a $10 knock-off if you don’t use the right stemware.

Here is what I don’t understand….. why in the world would a winery want people to sample their expensive wines in cheap $1 glasses which make their wines smell and taste like they came from a cheap bargain bin? And why wouldn’t high-end wineries tell their customers that they need the right stemware at home to fully enjoy their wines?

While I am really excited about this new revelation, there is one major draw back from this discovery…. these glasses are EXPENSIVE!

But now knowing what I do, can I really go on to enjoy my wines knowing that I am not experiencing their full potential in stemware not designed particularly for that type of wine?

Fortunately I was able to buy a really nice set of Reidel crystal wine glasses (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon) at a huge discounted price, about 1/3 of retail, which I will be using in my wine classes. But I think I’ll also starting taking these along with me on my Adventures in the Wine Country too and see what a difference it makes when I use my Reidel crystal wine glasses along side of their cheap wine tasting glasses with their winery logos.

I also know what I’ll be putting on my Christmas wish-list this year….