I visited a friend recently and, not surprisingly, before long he offered me some wine – but not one glass, he handed me two – and, of course, without giving me any hints as to what I might be tasting. It was clear I was expected to comment; I present him with similar challenges on occasions.
But why 2 glasses? There must be some connection. I tasted both and, sure enough, there was a lot in common between them, but one was clearly softer and richer, whereas the other was more linear and tannic. I started thinking out loud as a way of ‘fishing’ for clues: “Both from the same region?” “Yes”. “Bordeaux?” “Yes”. “Same Appellation?” “Yes”. I was doing well so far; if the 2 wines were from the same area, then they must either come from 2 different, but close by, estates or they were from the same estate but from different years. I talked myself into the 2nd of the options – the softer, richer wine was obviously from a warmer, riper year while the more tannic was younger, needed time or was perhaps from a less good year.
My friend smiled and shook his head. “Look at the glasses”. Yes, the 2 wines were in slightly different shaped glasses, but I had assumed that was simply a way of distinguishing one from the other. “It’s the same wine” said my friend producing the bottle: a nice Cru Bourgeois from the Medoc. I was astonished.
My friend had been to a tasting organised by Riedel glassware some time previously and had been caught by the same ‘trick’. I knew about their range of glasses – different shapes for different styles of wine, but had always thought it was simply a way to sell more glasses! It seems not! Each glass is designed to deliver the wine into your mouth in such a way as to trigger the best taste buds for the style; use the wrong glass and you miss the best sensations.
I tried a similar experiment at home – not using Riedel glasses, just 2 slightly different shapes – and got a similar result: the glass on the left in the picture (from Dartington Glass in Devon) gave my chosen wine a much fruiter, fresher taste than the other.
Try the same test yourself (any glasses will do so long as they are different shapes) and, next time you entertain a wine loving friend, why not test them too?