Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Riedel Recant

I've made many posts about Riedel, and I was thinking about them (and the recent Riedel topic at eBob) in combination with the nice post by Alder at Vinography and its becoming more and more clear to me how the Riedel thing works.

I've had very intelligent people come to me and say something along the lines of "I understand your points about the tongue map being false and that the glasses really won't direct wine to different parts of the tongue, but I still notice a difference between two Riedel glasses." They seem to sound something like (paraphrased) "I don't know how it works, but like palm reading and UFOs, it just works". Now
Caveman probably believes in palm reading and the paranormal, but I always thought the Riedel thing was just a hoax planted in the subconscious by your wallet (you know, the "I spent $50 on this glass so I'll be damned if it doesn't make the wine taste better" phenomenon).

Alder is correct that we can really only taste 5 things and if memory serves, something like 80-90% of what we "taste" is really from the olfactory senses. This reinforced in my mind why different glasses can produce different "tastes". The shape of the glass and the narrowness of its opening alter the nose of your wine enough to change the "taste" - as your mind interprets it, that is, nothing else (acidity, body, etc) is altered.

The best way to test this would be to try two glasses with radically different apertures. First, taste them holding your nose. Second, taste them normally. The difference should be pronounced. To drive this point home even further, try having a very light white burgundy (or red for that matter) in one of those highly stylized ginormous-fishbowl-on-a-stick Bordeaux stems…it's quite astounding when you see what happens to the same wine from a stem which then concentrates the aromas more like a narrow opening burgundy glass. The fishbowl glass will lack aroma and come off as more acidic and slightly thinner, while a narrow aperture glass will be more in balance and more concentrated. Its all about the ratio of bowl to mouth...

Still, I stand by my earlier statements, the shape of the bowl has nothing to do with how the wine hits your mouth and tastes and you should just buy a single set of glasses with a nice bowl shape and a narrow opening, the rest is window dressing.


Anonymous farley said...

I, too, think different glasses for every varietal is going too far. I mean, separate flutes for Champagne, Prosecco, Cava??? Really? I got into quite an argument with someone who thought that was necessary, someone who's not even into wine, but it still got my feathers up.

November 29, 2006 4:03 PM  
Blogger caveman said...

Palm reading, no, but I have started up a study of 'cleavage lines,' which is proving to be quite fruitful...

I did a Riedel tasting (same wine in 4 different Riedel glasses), and found that the biggest difference was with the Chardonnay, whereas drinking from the wide-ass aperture was a much better chard experience that the narrow aperture Sauvignon glass... a question of funneling the wine towards the outside of the tongue (where we sense richness) instead of to the center where we sense acidity. I didn't taste, smell or sense a dramatic difference in the other grapes (Sauvignon, Pinot N and Cab Sauv).

I have no problem drinking in-flight cocktail style (the wine is more important than the glass) but a finely worked glass, with a fine, laser cut lip like Riedel does enhance the experience... I personally use the Riedel Riesling-Sangiovese glass as my all-purpose guzzler (though I did get them for free)


November 30, 2006 2:49 AM  
Blogger St. Vini said...

Farley: Didn't know they had Champagne, Prosecco, and Cava - priceless!

Bill: When drinking the Chardonnay, how did you manage to keep the wine on the outside portions of your tongue without letting it hit the center? When I drink liquids, they tend to get all over my mouth. Is there a trick I'm missing? ;)

Also, my memory is that taste buds of all types are more or less uniformly distributed across the tongue. Where did you get the richness on the outside? Haven't heard that one before.

From an earlier post of mine:

"If you have performed this test, you may be surprised to learn that the tongue map is wrong. It is a mistranslation of an early-1900s German thesis that was disproved in 1974. Unfortunately, it continues to be published in textbooks [and wineglass manufacturers websites /vini] today. For the record, we perceive all taste qualities all over our tongue, although there may be increased sensitivity to certain qualities in certain areas. "


November 30, 2006 9:45 AM  
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