South Beach Wine & Food Festival

SBWFF 2011: Maximilian Riedel Makes a Good Case For the Glass

Like many wine drinkers, we don't give a lot of thought to what glass we pour our wine into as long as we never see the bottom. That;s wrong, says Maximilian Riedel, 11th-generation glassmaker and CEO of Riedel Crystal America., "The glass is an instrument -- a tool to introduce wine at its best." At yesterday's Riedel wine tasting, part of South Beach Food and Wine Festival's Wine & Spirits Seminar, we tested four of their Vinum XL grape-specific shaped glasses. 

It all starts with a wine-tasting placemat, four glasses of wine, and an empty plastic cup referred to as the "joker" glass. The latter was appropriately named we quickly learned. When wine was served from this nondescript vessel, the joke is on us.

This was clearest with the complex 2002 Etude Heirloom Pinot Noir. Fruity blackberry and cranberry with hints of spice when tasted from the Riedel glass, it becomes dry and "green" in the plastic culprit. A closer look at this glass reveals what Maximilian calls "the acidity bumper" -- a curved outer lip that perfectly directs the wine to the right spot on your tongue.

Short Order, normally a non-chardonnay drinker, even went back for more when served the 2007 Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay from Robert Young Vineyard in California in the "balloon" glass; it is designed to let the wine "approach" the palate just behind the tip of the tongue and balance the acidity. When poured in the plastic joker, not so much...The Riedel glasses are all designed to ensure the wine hits your palate in the right spot, at the right speed and with just the right amount to bring out the best of your droplets.

Referring to the "mouth feel" as the sixth sense, Maximilian Riedel, with his European wit and boyish charm, turns what to many might seem like a blatant sales pitch into an entertaining and eye-opening hour.  But what else would you expect from a lover of pinot noir, "the wine for lovers and artisans," who likes to break with tradition and makes a living off serving up decadence in the middle of the day.

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Christina Staalstrom