Riedel at the Grainstore. The Glass that Surprises

Riedel at the Grainstore
The Glass that Surprises
A rather special decanter.
Maximilian Riedel, representing the 11th generation of the Austrian glass-making firm, says Riedel are always up for a challenge. He was speaking during last Thursday’s comparative wine tasting event in the Grainstore at Ballymaloe House.

And Maximilian found a new challenge during his brief visit to East Cork. He enjoyed a tour of the local Irish Distillers facility. He was very impressed with the whiskey and told us in Ballymaloe that his new goal is to develop “the perfect glass for Irish whiskey”.

And taking up challenges is not new to the famous glass-makers (founded 1756) who lost almost everything during the war. But not their glass-making skills and not their love of it. They also loved their wine, still do, and eventually they became known as the makers of the varietal wine glass. So far, they have covered the main varietals but only ten per cent of the total!

But did you know they also make a glass for Coca Cola? Max told us how his father took up the challenge when a man from Atlanta came calling. “Why Coca Cola? We like to be challenged!” Working with a company who employ over “one million people worldwide” was just such a challenge. And they came up with a  glass that satisfied both them and Coca Cola and it was included in the Grainstore tasting.
Calm before the Riedel
He also indicated that the glass is very suitable indeed for your Cuba Libre cocktail! Actually, while the wine glasses are varietal specific, they are versatile enough to suit related varieties. For instance, glass #1 in the tasting was New World Pinot Noir (6449/67). But Max said it was “..the best champagne glass, full stop! Try it, you’ll be surprised”. Maybe not so surprising when you think that Pinot Noir is one of the champagne grapes. It is also suitable for Nebbiolo.

And it was with #1 that we started. Like #3, it holds a full bottle. But we weren't that greedy! The Pinot Noir glass has a “flare” at the top and this has helped reduce the acidity and so improve the whole experience. Beautiful aromas from the dedicated glass, reduced in #2 (for Old World Syrah) and further reduced in #3 (Cabernet).

“It is below room temperature, because I like it that way! Very well balanced, fresh, fruit, long, sweet and smooth… in #2 we are losing the fruit…. if we drink it from #3, people won't like Pinot Noir, it is heavier, drier, bitter…. the wrong glass could turn people off..” A further demo, using Lindt white chocolate, again showed a big contrast between #1 (good) and #3 (bad).

The Pinot Noir by the way was from Oregon. Wine #2 for glass #2 was a French Syrah (St Joseph 2013). In the proper glass, the Syrah showed a beautiful nose and then fruit, minerality, acidity, pepper, a beautiful structure and great aftertaste”. In #3, the message was diluted “aromas not bad, but not as intense….extreme spice and tannins on the palate..and where did the fruit go?” With Number 1 glass, he remarked: “a perfectly made wine in the wrong glass”.

 Max, and Riedel generally, do have a sense of humour and it showed again with his next demo, again with the Syrah but now in a plastic cup. “The nose is gone, lost….but not as bad as the wrong Riedel glass!”

“Bourdeau, toujour Bordeaux,” he remarked as he poured the third wine, a special treat: St Estephe 2009, into #3 glass. “... depth, structure, enough acidity, very elegant, dark berries, all in the right glass. In Number 1, it was no way close, fruit down...bitter and dry..green! Number 2 was worse again, “less fruit, more alcohol and bone dry”. And he showed the engineered pattern of the flow from the various glasses and it is this pattern that causes some of the variations.

Riedel didn't have any at Thursday’s demo but they also have a range of stemless glasses, the range invented by none other than Max himself. “The stem has no influence on the wine.” And then we were into the Coca Cola demo. That glass was developed with the help of the American company's Twenty Noses, their travelling tasters.

And again, the Riedel glass came up trumps: “You can almost see the secret Coca Cola formula here, the various fruits, a little cinnamon.... In the plastic cup, it goes flat faster, gets warmer faster, no aromas, more acidity.” The glass itself is very thin. “The thinner the glass, the longer it stays cool,” said Max.

The wines
By the way, he got no arguments all evening, all around me seemed to be agreeing, both during and after. And I have been a Riedel convert for a while now.

The wines, from Mitchell & Son:
1 - Dundee Hills Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir 2012
2 - Yves Cuilleron Les Pierres Séches Saint Joseph 2013
3- Chateau Ormes de Pez Saint Estèphe 2009

The wine glasses, all from the Riedel Veritas range:
1 - New World Pinot Noir, 6449/67
2- Old World Syrah, 6449/41
3 - Cabernet, 6449/0
The reference for the Coca Cola glass is 0414/21. Check them all out here. Mitchell’s are also the Irish agents for Riedel and you may see their glass selection here.

The next wine event in Ballymaloe is also a gem and features a dinner this Wednesday (18th) with Manuel Lozano of the famous Sherry producer, Bodegas Lustau. Full details here.
Max with plastic!
Strictly for demonstration purposes!