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?“
Dear Dr. Vino,
My parents live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and are huge wine connoisseurs. I would like to give them a copy of “Wine Politics” for the holiday season, and it would be quite special if I could procure a signed copy; do you sell signed copies of your books for fans and admirers?
Thanks! All the best,
Absolutely! Getting into the holiday spirit, I’d be happy to sign copies of my books for site readers. I’ll do what I did for Leigh: just ask you to PayPal me $25 (tyler at drvino dot com), which covers the Amazon price, New York sales tax, and then USPS priority shipping back to you (domestic orders only). Please note that I can fit two books in a flat rate mailer so you can supersize your order and get two signed copies for the bargain $45–woohoo! Unfortunately, my elves can’t do gift wrapping for you so you may want to have it sent to your own address. Make haste since this offer expires on December 20!
Thanks for your support of this blog with your purchases of my books, either signed or unsigned! Cheers.
My friend Kazuma, whom I met in my NYU wine class last year, gave me a gift of two furoshiki recently. They are traditional, decorative cloths used for wrapping and carrying. They’re popular now in Japan since they are reusable and give you the chance to say goodbye to plastic bags. In fact, the environmental minister made one from fiber of recycled soda bottles to boost awareness of furoshiki. The Ministry even has graphics of suggested foldings!
Kazuma says they can serve as a handy wine tote for two bottles. He sent along this video of him showing how to tie one on, furoshiki style. (If you’re reading this in a feed reader, click here to view.)
Last year at this time, I wrote a post called “Give the gift of big red,” which suggested giving wines big in flavor profile and in heavy bottles. However, since my research into the carbon footprint of wine, I’m reformed. Now I know that magnums (1.5 liters) produce less carbon dioxide emissions per ounce of wine than regular bottles because of the more favorable wine-to-glass ratio.
So this year, here’s a list of impressive magnums that will impress your friends and relatives–and even with the bigger bottle, they’ve got a smaller carbon footprint. Providing they drink it all, of course.
While there are many magnums that are ridiculously priced since they are a favorite of collectors, these are in the realm of reasonable, under $100. All prices are for magnums.
Pierre Peters champagne, $90 (find this wine). This champagne is a “grower champagne,” made by the people who grew the grapes (unlike the big houses who buy grapes from the 10,000 growers in the region). It’s from Mesnil, the home to big names such as Krug and Salon, so the vineyard site is excellent. So is the resulting Champange, a blanc de blancs, which I have served many times this year to guests and once from magnum to a class. Great bling at a fraction of bling price! Magnums are particularly good for aging so feel free to keep it for a few years.
Pepiere, “Granite de Clisson,” Muscadet 2005, $40 (find this wine). This producer is a leading quality in the area where the Loire river meets the sea. The wine is his richest and smoothest thanks to two years of aging but it still has good, zippy acidity to compliment seafood such as oysters. It’s also a doubly green wine because the grapes are hand harvested from an organic vineyard.
Schloss Lieser, Riesling Spatlese, Mosel, 2004, $68 (find this wine). I stumbled on this bottle in a wine shop and couldn’t resist it. The Riesling magnum is long and fluted and towers above other magnums. I served it at a party last weekend and the crowd loved it and had fun pouring from such a long neck. The wine has a whiff of flintiness on the nose but had a beautiful balance of light sweetness and acidity on the palate.
Dard & Ribo, Saint-Joseph, 2005, $68 (find this wine). I almost didn’t get a chance to taste this wine because I served it at a party and the revelers almost finished it off before I got to it. But fortunately I did since the wine inside the magnum is terrific with a great balance of red berry fruit, tannin and acidity. This is also a “double green” wine since it is totally natural and this producer is a staple in the trendy natural wine bars of Paris. It makes an especially good gift for someone named Joseph as I found out at the party where a friend named Joe tried to run away with the bottle.
Niepoort, 1997 vintage port, $65 (find this wine). Vintage port is generally very expensive with recent vintages pushing $100 a bottle. Magnums, however, get a significant discount presumably because nobody can drink that much sweet wine in one sitting. Tip: have a party and serve it at the end with some Stilton and it will be an amazing farewell. Another tip: drink as much as you are able and decant it into a regular sized bottle and recork where it will stay good for a good while longer. Whatever you do with it, the stout bottle is an impressive gift.
Choose your Christmas magnum wisely.
Wine is always a good gift for a wine lover–more on that next week–but so is wine paraphernalia! With almost every catalog now offering some sort of wine accessories, it’s not hard to find stuff. But some of them are cheesy and some of them are expensive. Here are some links to good value gifts.
Brown bagging the hooch! OK, no brown bag, but handsome velvet bags. Have blind tastings at home! May sound uber geeky but it is actually a fun way to sharpen your perceptions of grape varieties or regions. [$19.95 for a set of 5, Amazon]
Have screwpulls: An excellent, super-easy corkscrew that beats many at 10x the price. Go crazy and throw in the $8 foil cutter as well. [$15 or $22.98 with the foil cutter, Amazon]
Kicking glass: well, you probably can’t kick this glass and have it survive, but these “impact resistant” crystal stems from Schott Zwiesel do seem to have nine lives. [$10 each, Amazon]
I can decant: Decanting can help improve some wines, particularly young tannic monsters. But you don’t need to break the bank on a decanter. Although I haven’t tried this specific decanter, I picked up a similar one with clean lines at a wine store earlier this year for $24.95. [$19.99 via Amazon]
Tag it so nobody snags it: “Wine Lines Waterproof Colorful Drink Tag Markers for Parties, Euphemisms for Drunkiness” – come on, with a product name like that on Amazon, what’s not to love?!? Keeping track of your glass at a party can be confusing and the more well known dangling trinkets can be annoying while actually drinking as they clink and slid along the stem. [$6, Amazon]
Tag it again “From the cellar of…” stickers. OK, this could be a little pompous. But throw in some wit and no bottle that you bring to a party will be forgotten whether it is consumed then or by your hosts later. [$0.14 each with an order of 500, victorystore.com]
Take note: The only thing more important than tasting is writing! Oh wait, I guess tasting is still more important. But writing notes is crucial so you can remember where your category “wine” in Quicken went. Steve De Long has a new and original tasting notebook including a “guided” tasting note to get you started down the road of scribbling. [$6.95, De Long Wine]
Savor saver: Can’t finish the bottle in one sitting? Give it more life with a pump from the Vacu Vin stopper. And toss it in the fridge too. [Amazon]
Drinking game: Play Wine Smarts with friends and you will likely bore them or alienate them. But it’s a fun bunch of (sometimes hard) questions that you can use for yourself (wine solitaire?) or your nearest and dearest sommelier friend. Memorize the questions before giving then you will look all the smarter! [$19 via Amazon]
Book it: Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine has great nuggets of wine info interspersed with–get this–humor! [$12, Amazon]
Georg Riedel, 10th generation Austrian glass-blower, invented the delicate crystal glass designed for each grape variety.
Many wine lovers around the world have cabinets stuffed with complete sets by each varietal. But Riedel continues unabated, subdividing grapes with his just released Oregon pinot noir glass–mere grape no longer suffices as now terroir is overlaid on grape. The logically possible amount of stemware just increased exponentially.
Daniel Zwerdling burst into the wine world like a bull in a decanter shop. His story, “Shattered Myths,” in Gourmet (August 2004 and very, very unfortunately not available online), asserted that Georg was pulling the wool over discerning drinkers eyes: the reason wine in Riedel stems tastes better is not because of a tongue map–it simply tastes better because we believe it should.
So, as we contemplate adding more crystal to our collections and to give as gifts this holiday season, have your say in the latest poll!
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