It’s not marketing hype! The glass REALLY does make a difference

29th April 2014

It’s not marketing hype! The glass REALLY does make a difference

If you’re like me then you’ve probably not given too much thought as to why there are different styles of wine glasses. If pressed, then I’d say that a Champagne flute is the style it is because it feels elegant and it shows off the bubbles nicely. A white wine glass is shaped like it is because urmmm… it just is. Red wine glasses are a bit bigger so the wine can breathe and the wine tastes better. But any more than that… why there’s a Cabernet glass, a Shiraz… well that’s because there is and probably just a bit of marketing hype to sell a few more glasses.

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Ever heard of Riedel? As my interest in wine developed, I became aware of them a few years ago. Riedel are the world’s best manufacturer of wine glasses and they invented different shapes of wine glass to match the grape variety over 250 years ago. Before that we were all drinking from goblets. Riedel’s philosophy is that the right glass matched to a wine can enhance the wine characteristics of the aroma and taste (and bubbles if we’re talking sparkling). Really??! Sounded like a bit of marketing hype to me. Being from a marketing background, I just can’t help being a sceptical. There’s no denying Riedel’s glasses are very beautiful and elegant (I do love a nice glass), but altering the actual wine?!. I thought that probably only real wine experts would be only to detect any change as the difference, if any, would surely be minimal… and hardly noticeable to the typical wine drinker who I really represented at this point.

Reidel glasses

Recently, I was kindly invited by Riedel to undertake some test work at their UK HQ to discover the best glass to use for my Prosecco. I’d previously used Champagne flutes, but heard that traditional flutes weren’t that good and white wine glasses were better. I was confused! Wouldn’t you be? Excited to be in Riedel’s showroom surrounded by lots of fabulous glasses, I poured out my first Prosecco amongst each of the 12 Riedel glasses of differing shapes and sizes Steve had selected (that’s for Steve, Riedel’s UK MD and myself). I was so glad Steve was leading the tasting. I doubted I’d really be able to detect any noticeable difference in aroma and taste… maybe I’d do ok on the ‘best looking glass’ or ‘which glass had the most bubbles’.

First, the bubble test. The difference between the glasses was very noticeably. Some were bubbling away like crazy, some had hardly any bubbles. It was the same wine, but you wouldn’t think it. Steve explained that that some glasses had nucleation points at the bottom of the glass (tiny etchings in case you’re wondering) and some didn’t, some had more than others. Nucleation points helps bubbles to form. You could also see that the bubbles in glasses with a larger surface area didn’t last very long either.

Next, the aroma test (or the ‘nose’ if you’re a true wineo!). This is when I thought it would get tricky. OMG. Stunned!. I really couldn’t believe how different the aromas were coming from the 12 glasses. Even more amazing was that I could actually detect it. It was that obvious. Why though? So many questions. Well it’s down to the grape structure and how it interacts with the shape of the glass Steve explained. Aromas have different levels of gravity, so the aromas appear differently depending on how it works with the glass. Fascinating stuff! Some grape structures need more space to allow the aroma to develop, others don’t as much. Generally glasses that were very open at the top, allow the aroma to escape. Those that curve in at the top concentrate the aroma. I guess it makes sense when you think about it logically.

And finally, the big taste test. Surely this would be the real toughy. The wine tasted so incredibly different, it was unbelievable. This puzzled me the most. Fruitier in some glasses, more floral in others. More balanced and rounded, less so in others. Fizzier on the tongue in some, less fizzy in others. Less intense flavours, some more intense. This is truly amazing. It’s not marketing hype after all. I can really detect the difference. Yes, me. Wow. Who know’s about this stuff?!

Reidel Champagne glass

After completing our testing (tough job, but someone had to do it), we both agreed on one glass that came out top in all 3 areas: bubbles, aroma and taste. It was Riedel’s ‘Ouverture Champagne’ glass which was ‘just perfect’. It bought out the best characteristics of the Cirotto and Ca’Salina Prosecco and Rosato sparkling wines we tried. The Ouverture glass isn’t a traditional Champagne flute. It’s wider and curves in at the top as you can see from the pictures. I also learnt from Riedel that the traditional Champagne flute isn’t great for sparkling wine, nor even Champagne! (… I’ll tell you about that another time).

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So I knew my Prosecco was good but now it’s even better if you’re using the right glass. Of course, you can enjoy wine from whatever glass you like. I have some glasses I love but found out they are pretty hopeless in terms of bringing out the best of the wine. I’ll still use them though because they look and feel nice, but just not so often. The Riedel Ouverture Champagne glass is my new favourite.

Oh and if you’re still a bit sceptical, try it for yourself which is what I did straight afterwards at home with a group of friends. I’ll tell you what happened another time!

Shared by Julia Phillips

Director and Founder of Just Perfect Wines

Glass of Bubbly

Executive editor of news content for the website Please enjoy the articles that we share - We hope you find our love for Champagne & Sparkling Wines both interesting and educational.