Well, as I’ve written before, all wines are enhanced by good stemware. The titanium-infused line of “impact-resistant” stemware from Schott-Zwiesel have their virtues. At about $10 a stem, you could even break a few but they really are pretty resistant.
I recently splurged on a pair of gorgeous Zalto Universals, hand-crafted crystal stems from Austria. They are so elegant and weightless that they almost take the glass out of wine drinking–somehow, the fermented grape juice is constrained beautifully on display, the aromas concentrated, and the wine ultimately swishes over the palate while hardly sensing the glass rim. They are so thin it took my wife a couple of weeks to overcome a fear that they would shatter merely upon casting them a wayward glance. But we’ve had the set for a couple of months now, enjoying Champagne, Burgundy and Barolo in them, with nary a break (hope I didn’t just jinx it). I have yet to find more pleasurable stemware.
I bumped into Aldo Sohm, the head sommelier at Le Bernardin whose signature adorns the glasses, a few weeks after I got mine. He shocked me by telling me to throw them in the dishwasher to clean them. Eeegad! I continue to hand wash but good to know that the dishwasher is authorized by the highest authority.
Even though they are pricey at $60 each it sure would be nice to share a pair with a wine geek dad.
William Grimes laments the fact that wine geeks are so frequently the recipients of “unwanted gifts, of gizmos and gadgets,” especially this time of year. In his sites this time are mechanical corkscrews “a baroque solution to a problem that has baffled no one for the last five centuries.”
Indeed, while mechanical corkscrews may help people with limited mobility, you’re better advised to spend your money on wine and buy simple a Pulltaps (or decent stemware) instead!
“The Newfangled Corkscrew: It Comes With a Twist” [NYTimes.com]
I always enjoy drinking a birth year wine, particularly if it is a wine from my birth year. But even if it is someone else’s and you are in their company, then the glass is full of not only a mature wine (that’s hopefully still good or great), but also a time capsule, rife with symbolism and memories.
My brother stopped by our house for the first time since winning an around-the-world sailing race earlier this year. I had scored a bottle of 1983 Lynch Bages in anticipation of toasting his tremendous accomplishment at our next get together. So last weekend, I presented him with it, pulled the crumbly cork and decanted it. He was traveling with his girlfriend and we all savored the wine, which had really complex and enticing aromatics of tobacco leaves, a surprisingly spry and delicious midpalate, and a finish that tapered a tad too quickly. On the whole, the wine was in very good condition and, after polishing it off, my brother said he wanted to take the bottle home with him (he lives in France). Maybe he will put it on the shelf next to his race trophy?
Giving birth year wines as gifts for important achievements and milestones goes over really well. I haven’t done it a lot but I am going to try to give them more more since they can make for a really memorable gift. And with a bit of searching, it’s not too hard to find them. I got this one from a friend who had cellared it since release. But a few years ago, I wrote a story for Food & Wine on finding birth year wines and it can definitely be worth the effort–especially if you can pull the (crumbly) cork and share it together.
Advice columns this time of year frequently suggest wine gifts. Such columns often target the generalist reader who’s not that into wine but is looking for a gift to give to a wine-loving friend or relative. Flipping this model on its head, here’s what wine geeks need to give their friends and relatives who are marginally into wine: good stemware.
Yes, there’s certainly a strong argument to give them a bottle of wine itself–we certainly need plenty of it at this time of year. But wine itself can be a hit or a miss and, either way, it’s here today, empty tomorrow and, all too often, forgotten when the recycling bin is emptied. Certainly books have a tendency of sticking around longer and as the author of two wine books, I highly recommend giving the gift of wine books. A good corkscrew (such as pulltaps) is a nice touch, but really not essential since even the dreaded butterfly corkscrew can get the job done.
Thus, glasses. I think this even came up in the Bible: give a friend a bottle of wine, and you give him or her enjoyment for just one evening. But give him or her good stemware (or a good wine book for learning more about how to choose good wine!), and you will will elevate your friends’ wine enjoyment for months if not years to come. Many are under $10 a stem. Riedel makes handsome stems but, in my experience, I have found them very easy to break. Ravenscroft also has solid stems, starting at $7.50 each. And the Tritan forte Schott-Zwiesel makes a titanium infused line of crystal glasses that really does reduce breakage. And, no, you don’t need to give a different glass for each grape variety.
So go crazy and help your friends say cheers with style this holiday season with some good stemware, the best non-wine book gift that you can give to your friends and relatives who are getting into wine.
From site reader Jim:
It’s opportunities like this that make me wish I did indeed have a blog, but I don’t, so I’m passing it to you. Go to butterflywineopener.com for the most asinine, pointless product ever: an opener for screwcap wines. If you look at the video, all you do is seal it over the screwcap…and then turn the top of the opener, just as you would the screwcap itself.
I discovered it in a full-page ad in Tasting Panel [home of the "exposure package"--ed.]…strangely, as you’ll see on the website, the only press they’ve received is in the Tasting Panel, who’ve mentioned it at least twice in different issues.
A great piece of wine writing has just become accessible: oddly, with the closing of Gourmet magazine, Gourmet.com has made the classic article “Shattered Myths” available for free.
Written by NPR contributor Daniel Zwerdling back in 2004, the story starts at a tasting with Riedel stemware, which the attendees loved and bought $1,000 worth of the crystal afterward. Then the author reviews some scientific studies about taste and olfactory analysis of wine in different vessels, which clashed with the what he had seen at the Riedel demonstration. So the author put the question to Georg Riedel. Click through to see Riedel’s reply.
The article then turns to a fascinating and important discussion about perceptions and wine, much of which we have discussed since 2004 in various ways here and elsewhere. The now-available article is an oldie but a goodie and well worth the read if you haven’t already seen it.
The flute has been the glass of choice for champagne enthusiasts for decades. If the folks at Champagne house Charles Heidsieck have their way, the flute’s days are numbered.
In New York on Wednesday, they poured their entry-level, Brut NV in both a classic flute as well as a white wine glass. The aromas in the wine glass were much richer in large part because you can actually stick your nose in a wine glass, which is not the case with a flute.
“The Champagnois have communicated around the bubbles, not the wine,” said a spokesman.
The flute accentuates the bubbles coming off the bottom because of a “poil mousse,” or a roughened “scratch point,” said Maxmilian Riedel, also on hand for the event. Regular wine glasses do not have a scratch point, thus any bead tends to be a bit willy nilly, if even present at all. (See the scintillating 15-second video above for comparison of the bubbles!)
The thrust of the presentation, however, was the unveiling of a “uniquely designed decanter” by Riedel for Charles Heidsieck. The “organic lyre ‘U’ shape” is handmade and mouth-blown and bears a striking resemblance to the “Amadeo” Riedel decanter with a Charles Heidsieck badge. A bottle of the Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires 1995, a lovely wine, comes with the decanter in a presentation box for $600.
“I think there’s nothing better than aged Champagne,” Riedel said. “And that’s what happens in the decanter. I decant to enrich the wine, not to lose the bubbles.”
Are you going to throw out your flutes and start serving your Champagne in white wine glasses? Or from a lyre-shaped decanter?
Recently, at a crystal glass tasting at the Riedel Manhattan showroom, Maximilian Riedel unveiled his latest $500 decanter called “Eve.” It resembles a coiled snake with a two foot protruding shaft. Needless to say, it was mouth blown. “Eve” derives from Adam and Eve; the snake theme came because Riedel was born in 1977, a year of the snake in the Chinese calendar.
He poured the wine from the bottle into the shaft and rolled it around in the double decanting chamber, which he designed and said was patented.
The question arose of how to clean the snake decanter. He said that he cleans his in the bathtub. (He admitted an intercultural faux pas when in Japan the week prior by saying as much to his local audience; apparently taking anything from the kitchen into the bathroom is taboo.) Ah, memories of the Seinfeld scene of Kramer trying to save water by washing lettuce in the shower…
Riedel goes to restaurants, he said, because he wants to be entertained. When dining, he asks to keep the decanter of wine he’s ordered on the table, saying, “I want people to see that I am spending more than $12 on wine!”
More to come about the Riedel taste test. In the interim, Riedel did offer some tips on how to clean Riedel crystal glasses.
* He said he puts his right in the dishwasher.
* If you have the time to hand wash, that works too. He cautioned against washing them the same evening since he said the sink can appear very small and the glass very big.
* For red wine glasses, fill the glass to the top with warm water and soak overnight to remove tannins. Dry with two dish towels, starting with the base, and working up to the balloon. Don’t hold the base while drying the balloon; rather, cup it if you can to avoid separating the stem from the balloon, which could cause a nasty injury.
Related: “Varietal stemware: genius or hucksterism?“