I am a big fan of the International Wine Festival, I attend the grand tasting every year, and have done a few events over the years. But this year I was especially excited to be part of a class that would expand my wine vessel knowledge, while drinking out of them. This is the “Shape of Wine” seminar hosted by “Riedel The Wine Glass Company” at the “Terminal City Club”. A unique class that gave us the background on this well known wine glass company, and how each of their glass’ shape effects the bouquet of wine you are having.
Not your typical wine tasting this one is hosted by Riedel’s Regional Manager, Alysha Harker, as she guides you on a journey through your senses. (As listed on the event page) “Discover how glass shape changes your wine as you sample Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon in the Performance Series, Riedel’s new ultimate loudspeaker for fine wine. The set of glasses is yours to take home!”
Glass by glass, we would taste the wine as it was intended in the proper varietal vessel, then again and again in glasses that left it flat and lifeless. Our wine changed from the best to the worst, thus proving what you drink out of definitely makes a difference.
“Riedel” is an 11th generation wine glass company, making glassware for over 265 years in Austria. The origin story begins with a bottle of fine wine that didn’t taste the same from vinery to home. Where Riedel’s founder saw an opportunity in the mechanism he was using to drink out of. Fast forward, their glasses have earned them the best invention title at the museum of modern art. With their first customer being the queen, who ordered 99 glasses for her party. Down the road, they were also the ones to invent stemless glassware.
Their focus is on varietal specific stem wine. They work with master wine markers and sommeliers to design a glass that goes best with the grapes of that region. The physics of the bowl, length, and rim diameter are taken into account. The goal, to have the wine hit the tongue perfectly to make it taste the best, as parts of the tongue do taste things differently. This is where they introduced flow into the equation. How far to tilt your head back when drinking, to taste the wine at its best.
Our wine class featured 4 wines and 4 glasses. The “Culmina Family Estate Winery N° 003 En Coteaux Riesling 2016” in the “Riedel Performance Riesling” glass, the “Black Hills Estate Winery Chardonnay 2018” in the “Riedel Performance Oaked Chardonnay”, the “Quails’ Gate Winery Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2017” in the “Riedel Performance Pinot Noir”, and the “Majella Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2017” in the “Riedel Performance Cabernet”. We would leave with our bellies full of wine and chocolate, and a whole set of glasses to take home as a keepsake. And honestly having tried wine in their proper vessels, there is no other way I want to have it. The only down side to this education is not having the perfect glass for all the wines I might buy, and definitely not getting the proper glass at any given restaurant. I finally fully understand the saying “ignorance is bliss”. Nonetheless, I do not regret my new found knowledge and have actually downloaded their app so that I can now only buy wines that I have the proper vessels for.
I will do my best to try and describe the experience in my usual vivid detail, but truly there is no better way than to try this experience for yourself. Before we got into tasting each glass of wine, the panelists that represented the winery spoke to it.
At the “Culmina Family Estate Winery” everything is planted from scratch. This is so that they can control and maximize the quality of their results, specifically cooler climate varieties. What we were sipping on today was part of their number series, only available through their wine club. A small lot made in 2016, and never again. We started with the “N° 003 En Coteaux Riesling 2016” in the Riesling glass. It had our heads tilt back at a 45 degree angle, giving us apple spice on the finish, with some tingling sweetness.
We then moved on to the same wine in the fish bowl shaped Oaked Chardonnay glass. We noted how the wine smelled different from glass to glass. And it tasted muted and lost its light delicate character in this one. There was no tilting of the head here, leaving it tasting like the wine had been open and sitting out for a few days, flat.
In the Cabernet glass we weren’t smelling much of anything. There was none of the fruit that you got in the first glass, which made sense given that there was the least amount of head tilting here. Our host accurately described its flavour as “Sour keys”. This was our first hand proof that the same wine changed from glass to glass, which once again, was the intention of this class. This is also why each serving of wine was held in a separate plastic cup. So that we could distribute it between the glasses ourselves, knowing full well that it all came from the same source.
Next was the “Black Hills Estate Winery Chardonnay 2018” in the “Riedel Performance Oaked Chardonnay. The winery is located at Black Sage Bench in the Okanagan, between Oliver and Osoyoos. It has one of the hottest climates, with the cacti to prove it. They are known for big reds, but also makes a great Chardonnay, like the 2018 we were trying today. Hand picked and pressed for 8 hours in slow and gentle increments. The juice is so clear that it goes straight into the barrel using 50% wild fermentation and natural yeast. It sits for 10 months, oak aging in a 10-15% new oak. This gives the wine a great creaminess and more texture. And lucky us, today was the first time they were pouring it at a tasting.
With the “Riedel performance Oaked Chardonnay”, they perfected the ridges in the glass in 2019. The changes gave it the most optic impact, and increased the surface area for wine by 25-30%. Drinking out of it it we got the vanilla and pear notes as intended, a full bodied white that tasted of bright fruit. Ideal for “red drinkers” that say they “don’t like white”.
The same white in glass number one, the Riesling had it smelling oaky with a strong acidity and a distinct grittiness. And in glass number four, the Cabernet it taste spoiled, like it had been open and sitting for several days.
With this course we were also treated to chocolate from “Lindt”, one of “Riedel’s” partners. A Lindt excellence milk chocolate was paired here. And Alysha hilariously described it as “silky halibut”, to help paint a first course picture and the perfect plate to pair with the white.
Wine number three was a pinot noir from “Quail’s Gate”, who were the firsts to bring this grape into the Okanagan as clones. Over the years they have been able to find the best area to grow said grapes, thus resulting in a better by-product and wine then what they had 25-30 years ago.
We would enjoy the “Quails’ Gate Winery Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2017” best in their “New world Pinot noir glass”, easily identified with the tulip bulb. The glass gave the wine it’s intended smokey cherry flavour, one we got from curling our tongues and having the vibrant flavour hit the sweet and salty part of it. For sensation, my mouth liked the way it felt on this glass the most, it was also aesthetically the most appealing. But maybe just because I prefer reds.
Having it out of glass number four, the Cabernet glass, the pinot noir was tart with tannins, that had you salivating.
With it we enjoyed a square of “Lindt Excellence” white chocolate described by Alysha as duck confit. As one who isn’t a fan of Pinot noir or chocolate I liked both here and together in this partnership. Alysha herself stated that she cannot drink Pinot noir without Lindt white chocolate.
And last, but not least our varietal glass tour ended with Australia’s “Majella Wines” and their Cabernet Sauvignon 2017. Grown in a strip of red soil, the winery has a fine tune on the land. And as grape grower, our panel speaker was not shy to boast that he and “Majella” grows the best cab sav grapes in the region. He described the wine as being “very commercial”, stored in some of the best oak barrels they can get, for 22 months.
In its proper “Riedel performance Cabernet” glass we got a fragrant mix of mint, eucalyptus, cassis, and mulberries. A great wine compared to the salty and bitter flavours we got drinking it out of glass number one.
With this we had with a piece of “Lindt Excellence” dark chocolate in 70% cacao. And this was our “Triple AAA 28 ounce steak” or “Deep fried tofu with soy” for the vegans.
In conclusion this class was not only informative and fun with a great host, but you get chocolate and the glasses you drank with to take home. And best of all they are all said glasses are dish washer safe. And you are actually advised to not wash them by hand, because you don’t know hard you are actually scrubbing them. If you ever get a chance to chat up Riedel’s Regional Manager, Alysha Harker or attend such a class, I highly suggest that you do. It is life changing and will definitely improve your everyday wine drinking experience.
Terminal City Club
37 W Hastings St, Vancouver, BC V6C 1B6