Can a Glass Really Change a Wine’s Flavor?

Drink, Wine

This post comes courtesy of Williams-Sonoma associate Tre Witkowski.


A different glass can change the taste of a wine?


“No way,” I thought. “That’s got to be pure marketing! It’s the vintner’s job to make it taste good, not the glass maker.”


Julie Barba and Riedel proved me wrong and made me a believer.


The other night I joined a group of my co-workers and 120 wine lovers at SF MOMA for the Riedel Comparative Wineglass Workshop hosted by Julie Barba, the vice president of Riedel Development.

We were all a little skeptical. We’d seen the beautiful Riedel Sommelier glasses on the shelves of our stores but never really understood how or why the shape of the glass could change the flavor profile of the wine.


Sensing there were non-believers among her, Julie started us with water. First we drank from the plastic bottle as we were instructed to “pay attention to the mouthfeel.” Then we drank from the Syrah glass.  I turned to my co-workers in amazement.


It was creamier! I was intrigued.


Onto the wine.  In front of us we had three wines: a Cabernet and a Pinot Noir, both 2008 from Robert Mondavi Winery, and a 2007 Syrah from Peju.


We started with the Pinot Noir, my favorite red varietal. When tasted in the correct glass with a large bowl and a flared top lip, the wine was beautiful, with all the delicious jammy flavors I love in a Pinot Noir. But in the next glass the tannins were harsh, the wine was incredibly dry, and when I put down the glass I was left with an odd aftertaste.


I was sold! I made a mental note to switch the wine glasses in my wedding registry.


Julie says there are four factors that effect the taste of a wine.


1. The Company
A $200 bottle of wine shared with people you can’t stand will be painful, while a $20 bottle of wine shared with the one you love will be beautiful.


2. Temperature
Julie recommended reds to be enjoyed at 66 degrees, while white should be enjoyed at between 58, for sweeter wines like Gewürztraminers, and 63 degrees, for wines like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Most red wine at restaurants is served at room temperature. If you order the bottle, simply ask for a bucket of ice to set it to chill.


3. Decanting
Decant all young wines. “Wine is presentation,” she said as she poured a bottle of wine into a work of art that happened to be a decanter. Then to my surprise, she shook the decanter with vigor until there was a layer of bubbles. “I just aged this wine 5 years!” she said.


Don’t have a decanter? Try the Vinturi. Julie says the wine aerator does a wonderful job. If all else fails, pour one glass of wine, put your thumb over the top of the bottle and shake.


4. The Right Glass
The right glasses for the wine you’re drinking will make a world of difference.  Three red and two whites cover most varietals from around the world.

Cabernet / Merlot – Bordeaux

Syrah / Hermitage

Pinot Noir / Burgundy

Chardonnay / Montrachet

Riesling Grand Cru


San Francisco Museum of Modern Art


About the author: Tre started her love affair with food in her parents’ kitchen, taught by her mother the baker and her father the cook. Her passion for food and the culture surrounding it combined with her desire to travel has had her eating Fish ‘n’ Chips on a rainy day in London, fried plantains in the jungles of Nicaragua, curry from street stalls in Cambodia, and black rice pudding for breakfast in Bali. At home in her houseboat, her galley always smells of garlic and rosemary.

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