Nearly everyone who has ever done a Riedel “glassware tasting” says the same thing: size and shape matter. The surface area of the glass combined with the circumference of the rim work together to point whatever liquid is inside to just the right place in your mouth.
Riedel has made glasses specific to every type of wine imaginable — Chardonnay, Bordeaux, even Oregonian Pinot Noir (not to mention martini, aquavit, and tequila glasses). Tastings have resulted in boxed wine being mistaken for Grand Cru, simply because the right glass accentuated its best flavors and aromas (although it can also bring out a wine’s faults).
Maximilian Riedel, the 11th generation in his family to sell glassware, does tastings for up to a thousand people in one sitting. Recently, about a dozen sat down to sample wines out of Riedel’s new Vinum XL line. Designed for “bigger” — in many cases, American-style — wines, the outsize glasses aren’t likely to fit in most New Yorkers’ cupboards. But, “Who cares?!” says Maximilian. “Don’t store them, then. Drink out of them!”
In the right glass, an American Chardonnay, otherwise too oaky and bitter, was lush, fresh, and a little grassy; an American Cabernet Sauvignon, went from a hot slap in the face to a smooth, velvety caress. Apparently, Californian wines aren’t too fruity, boozy, and unbalanced, as they are often deemed — we just haven’t been drinking them in the right glasses.
The Vinum XL line runs $60-70 per set of two glasses. If you’re just starting out with booze-specific glasses, you should make your first glass one that’s for your favorite drink. While Riedel glasses go for as much as $130 a pop, their cheapest are just $10 each. So, if you’re becoming something of a serious drinker, get help: investing in the right glassware is well worth it.