Does shape matter?

It does, if we are talking about wine tasting!

Attending a Riedel masterclass is an experience and one that I would obviously say shouldn’t be missed.  It’s always an interesting discussion at the beginning of one to try to establish where people are coming from on their Riedel journey.  Are they full on converts who know the brand, use the glasses and understand the philosophy that ‘shape matters’ when it comes to your drinking experiences or are they total novices who have never heard of Riedel and maybe even are totally sceptical that shape can make such a difference for them.

The reality is that most attendees fall in between these two camps.  Some know the brand, some have the brand at home and some may have some idea as to what it’s about but want to know more.  Either way the aim of such a masterclass is to help educate people and to offer them an explanation as to why we have so many different shaped glasses in our various collections by doing what we all enjoy and that’s tasting from them.

I always like to start my presentations with telling people that “I am about to make their lives more complicated”.  This is a half truth really but gets the message across that choosing the right shaped glass for the right wine, spirit, or beer can help you enjoy that drink so much more and open up a whole level of enjoyment for these drinks that may have previously been missing but that you didn’t know about.

A Riedel masterclass for me begins with a water tasting.  We start by tasting something that has no smell or taste in order to showcase how differing shaped glasses can present the liquid into different areas of your palate and ice cold water does just that.  By using water we are then not prejudiced by our preconceptions of the smell or taste of something. The audience that gets to experience which of the glasses we are using is the most refreshing and thirst quenching because of how it coats the palate, as some do a better job than others and normally 80-90% of the audience agree on the same glass for this.  This is a good start in understanding how different shapes work.

On a regular Riedel tasting we then begin tasting 4 different wines, 2 white & 2 red. There are various formats of tastings that we offer but this is the one I enjoy the most as it helps a broader array of wine drinkers enjoy and understand what we are trying to achieve. We generally try a sauvignon blanc, an oaked chardonnay, a pinot noir and a cabernet sauvignon.  These are 4 very different grape varieties with 4 very different glasses with the idea being to try the wine initially in the ‘right’ glass and then also in 1 or 2 of the other Riedel glasses as the ‘wrong’ shapes for that grape variety.

Each of these grape varieties has differing components when it comes to the aromas and therefore require differing shaped glasses in order to enhance the aromas that we are looking to accentuate.  For example a sauvignon blanc has a delicate aroma but one that will offer freshness, green apples and lime in the sauvignon blanc glass, but put the same wine into a larger bowled glass and that aroma disappears altogether as the wine and aroma are too delicate and light to be held in a larger bowl.

On the palate a pinot noir should offer a beautiful fresh fruit feel, one of strawberries and cherries, a sort of sweetness on the tongue. The pinot noir glass is designed for the wine to first hit your palate at the front, allowing for you to pick up that wonderful fresh fruit feel.  Drink the same wine out of a cabernet sauvignon glass and the fresh fruit sensation disappears altogether as the wine is thrown towards the back of the palate meaning the delicate fruit from a pinot noir is lost.

And this is the fun of experiencing a Riedel masterclass.  It can really showcase and highlight to you both the importance and enjoyment gained from having the right shaped glass paired with the correct grape variety, spirit or beer (yes it works for craft beers too!). By the end of the tasting I normally have 99% of the audience agreeing that shape matters!! Whether they fully agree with our pairings is not the point, the point being that they can clearly see that the same drink can smell and taste differently from 2 different shaped glasses.

Our aim, and the aim of these masterclasses, is to give people the tools to enjoy fantastic wines and other drinks and to help them on that journey of discovery by starting with a platform of having the right tools to do so.

If you’ve read this far and are still interested then I suggest downloading the free Riedel app.  It offers some interesting information but at the heart of it is a tool where we can match the right glass to the right grape variety or spirit for you.  It’s a great thing to have at your fingertips when out and about in a restaurant or bar or just deciding what to buy to drink at home.

So, a Riedel masterclass is a journey of discovery, a cliché I know, but one that I hope you get to experience and which I hope will then help you fully appreciate that shape really does matter!!

– Matt Knight, Riedel


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