It ain’t what you drink it’s the way that you drink it

Peter Morrell samples wines from a range of Riedel glasses and enjoys some remarkable taste experiences

The Riedel family started creating glassware in Bohemia in 1756 and the company is still run by the 11th generation of the dynasty. The family history reads like a thriller featuring wars, collapsing empires and imprisonment.

This all culminated in Claus J. Riedel, of the 9th generation, escaping from a prisone train on a journey over the Brenner Pass. He made his way to the Tirol and was assisted by a family the Riedels had know from Bohemia, the Swarovskis. After a number of years Claus and his father acquired the bankrupt Tirol Glassworks in Kufstein in Austria and it remains the company’s headquarters and manufacturing base.

What makes the Riedel range of glasses unique is an innovation introduced by 10th generation Georg J. in 1986. Riedel created the concept of different shaped glasses for different varietals of grape.

To see what effect drinking wines from variously shaped and sized glasses was like I recently met highly knowledgeable Business Manager for Riedel UK, Martin Turner, who has been with the company for more than 20 years.

We were going to look at some of the glasses in Riedel’s Veritas range. Each one has been crafted, in consultation with winemakers to bring out the optimal character of different grape varieties.

We would be using four glasses from the range, designed for sauvignon blanc, an oaked chardonnay, an old world pinot noir and a cabernet sauvignon. There are many others including a champagne ‘tulip’ and glasses for wines and spirits. The glasses are bright, clear crystal, have a rimless lip and an elegant stem.

We started with a sauvignon blanc, a wine prized for its aromatic qualities. Our ‘control’ glass was actually a plastic beaker. This may sound strange but a large amount of wine is drunk from one of these, think airplane, BBQ or theatre.

Unsurprisingly from the beaker the wine smelt and tasted flat, exhibiting none of the characteristics that people choose it for. I then tried it from the sauvignon blanc glass and it was like switching on a light. There were strong tropical notes on the nose and the shape of the glass delivered the wine onto the palate at just the right spot to accentuate its fresh acidity and citrus tones.

When Riedel run these tastings some people are suspicious that between tasting from the beaker and the glass the wine opens up. To counterpoint this I poured my sample into the oaked chardonnay glass and the aromas had gone, it was the glass that was making the difference.

We moved onto tasting an oaked chardonnay, these wines can be buttery, cloying and bitter. Using the glass designed for this style of wine it balanced the fruitiness with the oak to give it an equitable taste. Tasting the same wine from the pinot glass made it almost undrinkable with the oak battering the fruit into submission.

The pattern was being set, moving on to a French pinot noir in the glass designed for the varietal showed why it’s such a prized grape. Fruit flavours are enhanced by the tannins from the skin of the grape. Interestingly as we moved from light to heavier wines the glass size increased, for example the old world pinot noir glass will hold almost an entire bottle of wine.

Our final wine was a beefy Aussie cabernet sauvignon, heavy, high in alcohol and very tannic. Again the shape of the glass tamed this big beast, smoothing down the tannins and taking away the dominance of the alcohol. I tried it from the pinot glass and it became boisterous and difficult to drink.

This had been a fascinating wine tasting experience and there was a lot of science and mechanics going on from how far the head is tilted back when you drink to whether you suck the wine out of the glass or let gravity do the work. Whatever the reason, the glasses do significantly enhance your wine drinking pleasure.

At the end of the tasting and to showcase Riedel’s glassmaking skill I tried the cabernet sauvignon after it had been aerated through the Mamba. This is an exotic decanter which has been made by a skilled glass blower. It’s a work of art in its own right as well as adding further finesse to the wine by oxygenating it.

In all an illuminating and enjoyable wine drinking experience.

You can buy these innovative and well-crafted Riedel products at quality retailers and online at