SoBeWFF: Does The Wine Glass Matter? Max Riedel Says Yes

There are many factors when it comes to evaluating a wine, that it's hard to separate the glass from the equation, according to wine expert Max Riedel, owner and proprietor of Riedel Crystal. Riedel showcased his line of glassware yesterday at the Perry Hotel for the South Beach Wine and Food Festival event, "Crystal Clear: Does Glass Make A Difference?"

The short answer is yes, although the taster must be acutely aware of the subtleties of wine flavors to really notice the differences in taste and in smell. Luckily, that's what this event was for.

For the tasting event, which also happened to be sold out, each person was presented with five stemless glasses -- two for white wine and three for red wine, a bottle of Fiji water, a spittoon cup, one six-ounce pour of a 2010 Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay and of 2008 Penfold RWT Shiraz red wine, valued at $150 a bottle and has never rated below 90 points in a rating system, says Riedel.

So how does the glass make the difference? It's all a matter of the shape and size of the glass hat unlock the aroma and flavor contributors of the wine.

For instance the wider but shorter glass used for pinot noir allows for more aeration, exposing the fruit flavor, reducing the concentration of alcohol and reducing the intensity.

With a short glass, the aroma is lost, less fruit, more oak, but the taste is more driven by alcohol.

"The difference between Riedel and any other glassware is simply that we are grape varietal specific," he says.

There is a lot more to the glassware in how it may affect the tasting experience but any more mention of the nuances borders on geekdom. In fact, Riedel considers himself to be a wine geek. 

The tasting begins with smelling the glasses to make sure there are no odors, then pouring the water into the white wine glasses to condition the palette with a neutral taste. Then Max proceeded to demonstrate the proper etiquette for tasting wine: pour, swill, smell, taste, then spit. Max being the master of wine that he is was the only one in the room that used his spittoon.

"It's the first event for a lot of people so no they probably didn't spit," says Katy Hunt, 31, a wine representative from California who was present at the event. "I don't want to end up in the sandpits."

Guests walked away with a set of five Riedel glasses, a $10 Riedel gift card, and a new appreciation for wine glassware.

Based in Hoboken, New Jersey, Riedel has been a regular to Miami for the last 25 years, and is a regular at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. There are more than 200 glasses in the Riedel arsenal, each one designed and developed in workshops and tested for functionality before aesthetics is considered.

Riedel briefly talked about the rising popularity of craft beer and, surprisingly, he doesn't see any conflict between wine and beer but thinks they complement each other.

"The best thing is when you go to a wine tasting you always have a sip of beer to freshen the senses," Riedel says. "What beer is is just liquid bread. Remember that beer was invented by the same people, monks."

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