You Say ‘Riedel’, I Say ‘Ry-del’—Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off

L.: George Riedel R.: Jenny's mom

L.: George Riedel
R.: Jenny’s mom

Drinking Bordeaux at room temperature is not a social faux pas rising to the level of calling Barack Obama ‘boy’ at a State Dinner or asking Jennifer Lopez’s mom to bring some more clean towels to your hotel suite.  Nor is it tantamount to accidentally referring to Austria as ‘Anschluß Österreich’ in a conversation with Georg Riedel.

But it’s close.

Because, in an actual conversation with Georg Riedel—a tenth-generation lead crystal wine glassmaker at Riedel Glas Austria—the old Schluchtenscheißer pointed out the following:

‘Red wines have been consumed too warm.  You are losing out on the mouth feel, the freshness of the wine, if you serve it at room temperature.’

You might as well be drinking Veuve Cliquot from a champagne flute.

steven wright1Never mind that the great Stephen Wright once pointed out that every room is room temperature, Riedel’s Australian manager Mark Baulderstone concurs:

‘Anything drunk above 18C is too hot.’

I have no idea what 18C is, nor do I have the slightest interest in Googling it to find out since I’ll drink anything anytime at any temperature, but I know that his follow-up statement was even weirder:

‘The ideal room temperature is one where you need to wear a jacket.  If you are sitting there in shorts, I guarantee your wine will be too hot. Ask for an ice bucket, make it into a big slushy, put it in there for 10 minutes and I guarantee your wine will be at the right temperature.”

That’s a bucket load of guarantees, Mark.  Likewise, I guarantee that if they serve you when you’re dressed in shorts, it’s not the type of joint that has ice buckets.

Moving On…

For $106 per wine glass, I expect a centered photo.

For $106 per wine glass, I expect a centered photo.

Mark and Georg also maintain that the proper vessel from which to sup sparkles is a Burgundy glass, saying, ‘The flute is for special occasions, when a small amount is required. Otherwise, look at a wine glass and it will do a much better job for you.’

On this I agree.  The last time I drank champagne from a flute it all poured out the G# keyhole.

A Poor Joke, I Concur.  And Something Else With Which I Concur…

…The last time my family went into the wine glass making business, we realized that it would be a brilliant marketing move if we could convince everyone on earth that they need a different wine glass for every single wine label in their cellar, and then, as soon as they bought our complete collection, to begin a campaign to convince them that those glasses were the wrong shape to begin with.

Like Georg of Riedel Glas, who tells me that my $70 Riedel 4400/28 Sommeliers Vintage Champagne Flute is really not the best choice for Champagne after all.  Instead, he thinks I should invest in a $106 Riedel Sommeliers Burgundy Grand Cru Single Stem Glass.

My bad.  Although, for the record, Georg: With that kind of chutzpah (and cheddar in the cheese chest), I’d think you could afford an ‘e’ for your first name and an another ‘s’ for Riedel Glas.

Goblet Gobshite

Wine people have argued for many years about the ultimate value of this wide array of Riedel stemware, and I have participated in several demonstrations and at least one good-natured scam in which the same wine was poured into four different styles of glass, and indeed, I picked up different nuances depending on the bowl.

ISO metrics

ISO metrics

Obviously, I am not oblivious to the art, alchemy and marketing schtick behind the form follows function of Riedel glassware, or else I wouldn’t bother writing about it.  And for the most part, the theories are pretty sound: Certain shapes can in fact, deliver enhanced experiences with certain wine.  No argument here.

But can you find a glass for a tenth of Riedel’s ransom that presents wine by applying same basic principals?  You can.  Start with an ISO wine tasting glass, in which the mouth is narrower than the convex part and effectively concentrates the bouquet.  It sells for around $6, and is perfectly adequate for most table wines, being thin, inert and, though somewhat clunky in appearance, a wonderful workhorse that leaves sufficient space to swirl and sniff.

It’s a bit large for dessert or fortified wines—I’ll give you that.

And as for wine temperature and you sitting there in your cutoffs demanding a slush-filled wine bucket in which to cryo-trash your 1998 Close de Vougeot Grand Cru?

With apologies to balderdash Baulderstone, you’d be pulling a bigger banquet boner than if you went to a State Dinner and referred to Barack Hussein Obama as Iraq Saddam Osama.

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