Should you spend $20 on a single wine glass?

The Wine Experience, Wine — By KF Louis on October 21, 2009 at 12:24 pm

About 8 years ago, I heard the Riedel glassware pitch at a wine tasting event.

Riedel vinum syrahThe marketing professional in me sat skeptical in the back of the room as they told us how every glass in their extensive product line was created to suit the characteristics of a particular wine. They went on about how bowl size and shape matters down to the millimeter and milliliter, as does the edge, because there is an ideal way to lay out wine on the tongue. Ha!

At the end, I stood up and clapped — they had crafted a believable story to justify the purchase of up to 40 different types of glasses starting at $20 each! I then went home to my thick-edged, $3 glass stems and, not knowing what I was missing, loved them for many more years.

Fast forward to 2 years ago. I was sitting in a wine-pairing class in the back of Murray’s Cheese on Bleeker Street in New York. The instructor’s final words to us were: great glassware matters and even more so if you are drinking $10-20 wines.

Hearing this message, my wife went out and bought me my first Riedel stems (red Burgundy and syrah) and we soon decided to do some reasonably scientific tests amongst ourselves and our friends over the next few months.

The results? Astounding. First and foremost, there is a HUGE difference in the nose and flavor of the same wine, served in different glasses. Second, especially with lower-end value wines, thin-edged crystal like Riedel makes wine unquestionably more enjoyable than thicker-edged glass stems. Finally, 90% of tasters preferred pinot noir served in a pinot noir glass, a syrah in a syrah glass, etc. Cabernet served in a pinot glass was just not as tasty to most folks.

So…my skepticism now aside, I can say that Riedel is right and believe that most wine enthusiasts should order them. And if not Riedel, any other fine wine glass manufacturer (Spiegelau, etc.) will do.

Before these trials, I would have never been able to justify $20+ on a single stem of glassware. But today, we have about 30 of them at home. And best yet, Riedel crystal is much more durable than cheaper glass, ergo, we have not broken a stem during standard “dinner party” usage in over 2 years.

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