Friday, August 27, 2004

Riedel and illogic, the perfect pairing.

Call me a trouble maker but I just can't help it. I went to a wine 'seminar' at a large wine festival recently. The presenter was a local Sommelier and was covering the joys of Rhone Valley (North and South) wines. I had no interest but Mrs. Johnson want to go, so we went. The presentation was fine, I drank the samples and took to day dreaming of how much better it would be if Camille Segeshio was making the presentation in a bikini, when I realized the conversation had migrated on the benefits of Riedel to enhancement of particular varietal aromas and FLAVORS. Mrs. Johnson excused herself and wished me luck storming the castle. Fine woman, she knows when I get in the scrapping mood.

I listened to the assertions, all Riedel party line regurgitations, that the specific varietal/type glasses enhanced the aromas and flavors of those specific varietals/types. There were nods, murmurs, and anecdotes of agreement. Of course, I raised my hand and called forth the maelstrom....

HJ: Did the Sommelier know if there was a 'formula' for each of the Riedel glass type shapes?

Answer: No.

HJ: OK, well shouldn't there be? Riedel's assertion is that each glass is specifically shaped to enhance that particular varietal/type?

Answer: Not Sure.

HJ: Well, then wouldn't it follow that if each glass were SPECIFICALLY made for each varietal/type then there would be a specific rim diameter to glass internal shape formula that would have to be followed for each type and that if you changed the rim diameter and internal volume changed, as it does between the 'Sommelier' and the 'Vinum' then the aroma and flavor appreciation would change also? Or simply is 'enhancing aromas' just a matter of aroma concentration?

Answer: Well, I don't know.

HJ: So if these glasses enhance aromas wouldn't the amount of wine poured in the glass be a critical element, drastically affecting the aroma dispersal, and if so, why didn't Riedel etch a 'optimal fill line' on each glass?

Answer: I'm not sure . . .

(At this point the mood in the seminar room was somewhat agitated, obviously I was a heretic, or worse an unrepentant philistine, unable to appreciate the sublime power of Riedel crystal)

HJ: Aromas are one thing but you made the assertion a few minutes ago, backed up by a few people here, that specific glasses enhance FLAVORS too by placing the specific wine on the right part of your tongue. You know that's absurd and prone to 'User Error' because you would have to have you tongue in a correct 'posture' and pour the wine at a specific rate for that to be the case. You can't make assertions of a 'What' without actually knowing the 'How'. No Riedel rep or advocate has ever explained the 'How'.

Answer: I think you're missing the point.

HJ: Oh so the laws of fluid dynamics don't apply to Riedel stemware? Here is my point, rim diameter and glass volume have more to with aroma appreciation than any factors in a wine glass and that Riedel has sold a bill of goods to consumers making them think that their specific shaped glasses. I can tell you that no one from Riedel could give you a technical explanation of the shape difference between the Chablis (Chardonnay) and the Montrachet types in the Sommelier series. And why is one glass labeled Zinfandel /Chianti, and are they actually saying that those two have the exact same characteristics??? And what about Spiegelau, totally different shapes than Riedel? Is Speglieu wrong? Riedel has done a world class marketing job, they should be applauded for it, P.T. Barnum would have loved it.

There verbal back and forth that followed was precious, not one advocate for Riedel could answer any of the questions listed above, no facts were presented only anecdotes, the Sommelier was reduced to simply saying that the glasses enhance the appreciation of aromas, there was no denying that. That's genius, yes, if you have a glass that has a certain rim diameter to volume ratio, the concentration of aromas will be greater. Pure genius, there is a wine snob/sucker born every minute, and their cabinets are jammed with Riedel crystal.


Blogger VineSugar said...

I never contmplated those points before. I've been drinking out of Speglieu since my inception into wine. They enhance the aromas better than my pint glasses which is all I ask for... and of course, being a third of the cost of Reidel is a nice benefit.

God... I would have loved to have seen their faces. Well done :)

I for one, encourage the troublemakers of wine - it makes those engagements MUCH more interesting.

August 31, 2004 4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok, being a trouble maker myself, I have to jump in. Yes, if you are comparing Reidel to Speiglau, of course, it's a bunch of crap. But, drop the feistiness for a minute and do a test yourself. Do you enjoy chardonnay more out of the chard glass or the burgundy? While I agree that it's mostly Reidel's marketing that drives the broadness of the brand, still there is some validity to it - whether scientific or not. A nicely shaped glass does help aromas in certain wines. You can't argue that. Different wines would benefit from differently shaped glasses. Yes. In a recent tasting to determine glasses at a winery, several people tasted many types of glasses to determine which showed the wine better and there were differences. Big ones. Decisions on buying glasses and serving wine were made on that (and Reidel won, by the way). Do they need 30 different glasses and is Zin and Chianti the same, of course not. That's marketing. I know that last was your primary point, but, I think at the seminar you just sound a bit stubborn, maybe a little obnoxious (sorry). The spirit behind what they were saying is valid. Remember, wine (and therefore wine drinking) isn't science even though science is involved. Ask why makers why they do things and they don't always have a scientific answer. Usually it's history or instinct. And at the end of the day, what glasses do you use? Why?

September 01, 2004 9:07 AM  
Blogger Huge said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

September 01, 2004 10:33 AM  
Blogger Huge said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

September 01, 2004 11:56 AM  
Blogger Huge said...

(Having trouble with my own comments somehow)

Thanks for posting, yes Reidel (or any glass with a narrow rim) enhances aromas. The issue, however, is whether it improves taste.

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 you believe 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....

September 01, 2004 2:09 PM  
Blogger Huge said...

Also, see my earlier post on a survey published in Gourmet magazine that shows in a head-to-head study, Reidel improved neither armoa nor taste. Do you have the reference for the study you allude to? I'd love to read it.


September 01, 2004 2:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree with most of your points on Riedel.

Having trouble distinguishing why Chardonnay and Burgundy would be different however...unless someone's changed the AOC rules for white Burgundy while I was napping.

March 01, 2005 5:27 AM  
Blogger Huge said...

The commment about Chardonnay and White Burgundy was made by "MarkM" not by me. Unfortunately, he didn't return to qualify that statement!

Thanks for your comments.


March 01, 2005 9:24 AM  
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