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October 20, 2011

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Picking right glass helps wine experience

A bottle of Pinot Noir is poured into three glasses, each a different shape and size. Almost magically, the wine smells and tastes different in each glass.

In the first glass, which is shaped like a flower bud with a round bowl and slight tapering at the top, the wine has an intense raspberry and cherry aroma with a silky and balanced mouth feel. In the second glass, a cone shaped bowl and narrow tapering, the nose of the wine is driven by earth and soil. From the third glass, featuring wide tapering and an elongated narrow bowl, the elegant fruity smell disappeared and the taste was more mineral-like with a bitter aftertaste.

This lesson in the effects of a glass on wine was given by Georg Riedel of Riedel Glas Austria, a company known for making some of the best wine glasses in the world. Georg is the 10th generation of his family.

In Shanghai for a wine master class, Riedel tells Shanghai Daily that a glass has a profound effect on the wine-drinking experience.

"The sensational difference you got from the tasting is because those three glasses have a different size and shape," Riedel says.

Generally, a big glass allows the complex aroma of a wine to be detected easier.

"You can't swirl the wine in a small glass without spilling it," he says. "The small glasses only tell part of the story while the full complexity of the wine is discovered in a bigger glass."

Swirling a wine is important because it needs to be exposed to the air so that its aroma and flavor can be better released, he adds.

That doesn't mean small glasses have no place in the wine world.

Tommy Ying, bar manager at Jean Georges, says small glasses are more suitable for dessert wines with high sweetness and an intense aroma.

There is no general rule to the shape of a wine glass as Riedel said it all depends on what wine you are drinking. He used the Pinot Noir tasting as an example.

"Compared with Syrah, which is strong and tannic, the aroma of Pinot Noir is more elegant and lighter. Hence, we need a glass with a round wide bowl and narrow taper on top to concentrate and keep the aroma," he says.

"But a narrow taper on the top is limitedly used when drinking wine with a simple aroma," he continues, pouring a Cabernet Sauvignon into the same three glasses. "Cabernet Sauvignon features rich and complex flavors and is more suitable in a glass with a wide taper."

The wine smells and tastes best in the third glass, which had the widest taper.

Different palate sensations are due to the shape of the bowl and the diameter of the rim of a glass, which controls the flow of wine into a specific area of the mouth, Riedel says.

Riedel also says that good wine glasses are always clear and a bit shiny since you need to fully appreciate the appearance of a wine.

According to Riedel, the weight of a glass is often ignored by most. Sometimes we equate the heavy weight with high-quality glass containing high portion of lead, but Reidel says that only light glasses with good balance can ensure a nice drinking experience.

Crystal glass is considered the highest quality.

Riedel says crystal glass is more expensive because the original status of glass is hot liquid.

"During the cooling process, it turns from a liquid to solid. Adding lead extends the cooling time so that craftsman have more time to improve the glass quality."

In terms of quality, there's not a big difference between machine blown and mouth blown, according to Riedel.

If all this seems too complicated, Reidel says you can always bring your favorite wine to a glass shop and pour it into various glasses, drink each sample and then choose the one you think is best.


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