Warning: I am about to write about an expensive wine glass, and I will suggest to you that it is the best of its type, and worth the money. And furthermore, that if you pay good money for good wine, you should buy this glass if you have not already.
Why the warning? A lot of folks think that wine glasses don't matter, and that appreciating good glasses is snobbery or snake medicine. These people are wrong - there's no other way to say it. It's not entirely their fault, though. There is an unfortunate snobby culture that has been part of the modern history of wine appreciation and people might mistake the idea that some glasses are better than others with the false notion that you must use a certain glass to drink wine correctly. This is obviously not true. We have all had memorable experiences drinking wine out of bad wine glasses. It is not necessary to have the best glasses in order to enjoy a wine.
That said, some glasses really are better than others. A good Burgundy glass, for example, allows a good Burgundy wine to show more of what makes it a good Burgundy wine. If you drink a wine out of different glasses, the wine will show best in one of those glasses - there is a difference. And I'm not suggesting this in a snobby way - there is no "right" way to drink wine, and you should do whatever makes you happy. But there is something to this, this glassware thing. If you are someone who will spend $75 on a bottle of Champagne, for example, you might consider experimenting with different glasses. You might find that the wines you care about actually show better, given certain glasses.
This is not my discovery, by the way, Peter Liem first told me about this. The photo above was taken at his house in December as we drank 2002 René Geoffroy Cuveé Volupté out of three different glasses. I went in with an open mind and there was no mistaking it. The aromas were more focused in the Riedel glass and yet still expansive and complex, and it just moved onto the palate better, feeling more balanced. I had tried drinking Champagne out of this glass before, but after this experiment I literally refused to open a bottle until I bought a set of these glasses for myself. This, my friends, is an expensive proposition - they are about $75 a stem. But I own some decent Champagne, and the value this glass adds to the experience of drinking Champagne makes the glass worth more than its dollar value.
Since then I've used these glasses quite a few times and always with great results. It makes sense to me that wines based on Chardonnay would show beautifully from this glass. I've tried several times now and the pinnacle for me was this:
The 2002 Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs Les Chétillons is a stunning wine, and in this glass the aromas were positively regal and flowing. Incisive chalk, green tea, and floral aromas, just beautiful and complex aromatically, and very finely detailed on the palate, which builds in complexity through the finish. Amazing wine, and although I did no empirical testing, it's hard to imagine a wine glass that would be a better medium through which to experience this Champagne.
What about Champagne made from red grapes - would a Pinot Noir based Champagne also show as well? From what I've seen, the answer is emphatically yes. It's not about displaying the fruitiness of one kind of grape. What makes this glass special is the way it amplifies detail of aroma and flavor while facilitating balance, and this is not grape-specific.
The other night, on Peter's birthday, (and because of his generosity - he gave us this gift, on his birthday) I had the opportunity to drink a very special wine.
ÿ, from a vineyard called La Côte Faron. Selosse began the mini-solera for this wine in 1994 - there are wines that are19 year old in the blend! Until recently this wine was called Contraste, but Selosse has been releasing a series of single vineyard wines in the past few years and this one is among them, its name now La Côte Faron. The wine is gorgeous and there are many fascinating things about it. One thing I was conscious of as we drank it (over 4 hours) was glassware. We drank it out of the Riedel glass. But this wine is made entirely of Pinot Noir, and is composed of wines from vintages 1994 - 2003 (the current release includes some 2004 I believe - this one was released a few years ago). Would the inherent complexity, the aromatic expansiveness be compromised in the flute-shaped glass?
No, as it turns out. I didn't try the wine from a Burgundy bowl, but drinking it out of the Riedel glass was enough. The wine, especially after a couple hours open, showed incredible breadth, complexity, and detail, but in this glass was also entirely chiseled in its focus.