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The importance of good glassware

With so many shapes and sizes of wine glasses on the market, it can become confusing knowing which wine glass to purchase and drink from. Allow Wine Judge Jim Harre to simplify the decision making with 4 helpful points.

In recent years there has been a quiet revolution in the wine industry. I'm not referring to the introduction of the Stelvin Screwcap, but the huge advances in the shape, size and style of glassware which has lead to a change in the sensory perception and enjoyment of wine.


Apart from the obvious role of conveying wine from the bottle to your mouth in a "user-friendly" approach, for me a good wine glass should have four characteristics:

  1. Clear glass so you can see the colour and condition of the wine without impediment.
  2. A good shaped bowl that when a 1/3 full holds a reasonable quantity and the wine can be swirled to release the aromas without spilling.
  3. A stem that allows you to hold the glass without leaving finger marks on the bowl or heating the wine.
  4. A cut rather than rolled edge so the wine flows into your mouth, rather than the effect that a rolled lip gives where it acts as a dam changing the way the wine flows onto your tongue.

The leader of this change is Riedel, an Austrian company, still family owned, established in 1678 and currently employing the 11th generation of the Riedel family. It was Claus Riedel (9th generation) that was the inventor of the functional wine glass - a glass that is designed based on the character of the wine.

In 2004 the Riedel group bought the Spiegelau Company, another Austrian glass manufacturer established in 1521, and famous for their production of lead free crystal. Both Riedel and Spiegelau glasses are a delight to drink from and most importantly make the wine taste better.

When I first was introduced to Riedel glasses, I was sceptical, how could a glass shape change the taste of wine and how could a cut rim rather than a rolled rim on a glass make a difference? Well as they say the "proof is in the pudding" and comparing the same wine from different glasses is a revelation.

To test this, pour two glasses of room temperature red wine, use a Riedel glass for one glass and your best wine glass for the other. The difference in intensity of flavour and smell you will find is quite remarkable. A good friend recently remarked to me that drinking wine from a Riedel glass is like adding $10 to the bottle price - it tastes so much better.

These glasses have now become the standard at the top domestic wine competitions such as the New World Wine Awards and the Air New Zealand Wine Awards as well as a large number of the international wine judging shows.