About Me

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Dublin, Ireland
Hi, I'm Dermot Nolan, and I became a Master of Wine (MW) in 1997, and resigned from the Institute of Masters of Wine in 2023 after being an MW for exactly 26 years. I opened a wine shop in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland, called The Wine Library, which closed in 2018, and this is my personal wine blog. I will do my utmost to be fair and responsible in my posts – please read my Who Pays article in re the ethics of wine trips and writing. I have worked in wine education, retail, and consultancy since 1990. I was a Director of the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) from 2008 to 2014 and was also a member of the Events Committee, founder of the Trips Committee, and member of the Governance Committee. Having had problems with potentially libellous comments from unidentifiable posters, I now require that if you post a comment, you must identify yourself properly or it won't be published. Please note that I do not review products or services on request so kindly don't ask. I value my independence and I believe my readers (few that they may be) do so also.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Serving suggestions

Isn't life grand? Last week I was invited to attend a tasting of Riedel glasses, organised by Mitchell's with the able assistance of Jean Smullen. The tasting was held at the newly opened Convention Centre (aka the tube in the cube) and was carried out by Maximillian Riedel, the third generation involved in the design and sale of hand-blown glassware. As you no doubt know (given that being a reader of my blog means, by extension, that you are wine-worldly aware!) Riedel claim that their glasses improve not just the aromatic qualities of wine but also the actual taste. Is this true?
Well now, all of my MW students will no doubt be smirking at this point! Why? Because I always tell them to put your answer right up front so the examiner knows where you're trying to go and can more easily mark your exam. But this ain't no exam... so read on!
The tasting involved the following items - a plastic cup, an ISO/INAO tasting glass, a Riedel Sauvignon Blanc glass, a Riedel Chardonnay glass, a Riedel Pinot Noir glass and a Riedel Cabernet Sauvignon glass. There was white wine in the Chardonnay glass and red wine in both of the red wine glasses.
Maximillian put on an excellent demonstration - without a doubt he's a good mix of showman and salesman. He explained the basic ideas behind the Riedel range - the bigger bowls to help improve aromatic experience but also the glass shape to direct the wine towards the right part of the palate to maximise taste. He also pointed out that the glasses are not interchangeable - for example putting  chardonnay into the Sauvignon Blanc glass would do the wine no favours.
In order to make his point we did the following - tasted a wine from the "correct" glass, then from each of the other glasses in turn, thereby highlighting the problems that using the wrong glass causes.
So - a lovely New Zealand oaked chardonnay tasted from the Chardonnay glass, very well-balanced, ripe and round, a mix of apple, some tropical fruits and oak spice. Then, poured into the Sauvignon Blanc glass the aromatics changed noticeably; then to the ISO glass, then back to the Chardonnay glass.
Then an Oregon pinot noir from the Pinot glass, then into the Chardonnay, the ISO, the plastic beaker and back. Similarly with a firm, youthful Bordeaux blend from Pessac - starting in the Cabernet glass, onto the Pinot, then the ISO, the plastic and back to the original. The question is - did the glasses make a difference and, if so, was it to both smell and taste?
Yes and No - they make a big difference in terms of aromatics but not at all in terms of taste. Now, I can guarantee you that anyone else there (and many will have blogged this already) will disagree strongly with me, but I kept tasting notes on each wine from each glass and I can assure you that I noticed no substantial difference between tastings in terms of mouthfeel and taste. Let's look at a few of the things that "changed" - tannins, for example. Well, taste any wine three or four times in succession and I know (from many years judging experience) that the last tastes are always less fruity, more tannic (in the case of a red wine) due to simple palate fatigue. You dehydrate and the tannic effect is felt all the more. Add to this a constant stream of vocal prompting and it's very easy to go along with the game - he says it's changed so YES!, BY GOLLY, IT HAS! Eh... no, it hasn't. In fact, when pouring into the ISO glasses (derided as useless by Maximillian) it seems that no-one even noticed that they were then filled about two-thirds full so, of course, aromatics weren't as good as they could be as you couldn't swirl the glass properly. If anyone else did what I did, which was pour the Bordeaux into a clean ISO to the correct fill level then tasted it BEFORE tasting it from the "correct" Cabernet glass they would have noticed what I did, that both tastes were almost identical.
Hmmm... but then, this was a show and, to be fair, the Eve decanter (possibly well worth the €195 price tag) would be a great addition to anyone's wine experience. But do you really need 30 plus glasses for all the wines you drink? No. Do Riedel glasses actually change the way you taste? Not in my opinion. Can you afford them? If not, then who cares  -if you can, they buy for the aesthetic fun of the glasses and, if you want to believe, feel free - but don't expect me to agree.
Serving suggestions? Suggestive serving, more like - but very enjoyable all the same.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Beverley Blanning MW's article on Riedel vs ISO also makes an interesting read (the debate continues): http://www.decanter.com/people-and-places/wine-articles/486207/how-many-do-you-really-need