Yes, the shape of your wine glass really does affect the taste of your tipple

Janine Walker discovers the difference a glass can make to the bouquet, texture, flavour and finish of various wine varietals

11 August 2019 - 00:09 By Janine Walker
Pieter Terblanche of Riedel believes fine wine and fine glassware are intricately linked.
Pieter Terblanche of Riedel believes fine wine and fine glassware are intricately linked.
Image: Supplied

A glass that controls the message between your taste buds and your brain?

If that sounds far-fetched, it's time to put wine snobbery to the test and discover that shape really does matter when it comes to the glassware you drink your wine from.

Riedel has just introduced a new line of glassware called Performance into the SA market, with six differently shaped glasses targeted at specific wine varietals (Champagne, chardonnay, riesling/sauvignon blanc, cabernet/merlot, pinot noir, shiraz) and a seventh for spirits.

They are, their makers say, the new ultimate loudspeakers for fine wine.

If you don't believe that a mere glass can transform the bouquet, texture, flavour and finish of a wine then you have to spend an hour in the company of Pieter Terblanche, Riedel vice-president for Africa & Indian Ocean islands.

Drink a Louis Latour Grand Ardeche Chardonnay 2016 from a plastic cup and it tastes like, well, plonk. Transfer it to a Riedel Performance Cabernet glass and it performs better, but nothing like it tastes in the Performance Chardonnay glass, which maximises its flavour and bouquet.

Each glass allows the wine to hit a different part of your tongue.

Says Terblanche: "People are always sceptical until they take part in a Riedel glass functionality tasting and see the difference it makes to drink wine in the correct glass. This range has been developed after extensive scientific research and workshops."

Performance glasses are made from fine crystal and feature long, fine stems and large stable bases. No competitor makes a base this thin or wide, says Terblanche.

Inside the bowl of the glass is an important innovation: little fins designed to increase the surface area of the glass by a third, which means more of the wine is exposed to air.

I personally don't understand why restauranteurs want consumers to buy wines with a 150% to 300% mark-up but serve wines in inferior wine glasses
Pieter Terblanche, Riedel vice-president for Africa & Indian Ocean islands

This optic impact is visually appealing, and the increase of the inner surface area allows the wine to open up and fully show every aroma and subtle nuance.

So does Terblanche carry his own wine glasses to a restaurant?

"Absolutely, because restaurant owners in general are only concerned about breakage and many buy the cheapest entry-level glasses," he says.

"I personally don't understand why restauranteurs want consumers to buy wines with a 150% to 300% mark-up but serve wines in inferior wine glasses." 

"The wine list and stemware should match to ensure the consumers have the best wine experience possible. Fine wine and fine glassware are intricately linked." 

"It seems such a shame that so much effort is put into the making of fine wine - from selecting the right soil to perfect vineyard management and then the wine-making and ageing processes - but the final step, delivering the 'message' of wine correctly to our senses, is totally missed."

Riedel Performance glasses cost between R775 to R950 for a pack of two varietal-specific glasses. They are dishwasher-safe.


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