Wednesday 15 February 2012

A Glass of Wine?

Yes please!
But what glass? That is, sometimes, the tricky question. I will beforehand apologize for the nerd factor of this post...

"7 glasses with the same wine just to see what glass is the best??" My better half just shaked her head and went on to do something wortwhiled.

Lets introduce the wine - 2004 Barolo Vigna del Gris, Conterno Fantino - a young, strapping Barolo from the excellent year 2004. Vigna del Gris comes from the Ginestra area in Monforte d´Alba (for more info, check out Conterno Fantinos website - When we visited Conterno Fantino in april 2008 we got to taste all the 2004 Barolo from bottle, and then I scored the Vigna del Gris at 92p, and thought it had great potential (although the Mosconi and Sori Ginestra was even better).

And on to the glasses. With one exeption, all glasses comes from Riedel ( I´m a firm believer in their glasses. I have tried all sorts of glasses from Schott Zwiesel, Bottega del Vino and Spiegelau, but for me the Riedel series have worked best through the years.
Presenting from left to right:
1) The standard ISO glass
2) Riedel Ouverture Redwine (6408/00)
3) Riedel Vinum Bordeaux (6416/0)
4) Riedel Vinum Extreme Cabernet (4444/0)
5) Riedel Vinum Burgundy (6416/07)
6) Riedel Vinum Extreme Pinot Noir (4444/07)
7) Riedel Sommeliers Burgundy Grand Cru (4400/16)

I decanted the wine two hours before this test. I poured the same amount in every glass. I then took a note immediately upon pouring and then 30 minutes later.
This is how it went.

2004 Barolo Vigna del Gris, Conterno Fantino - in the ISO glass
A light, cool nose with notes of red cherries, new leather, forest floor and a touch of licorice. Rather withdrawn and a touch angular, but nice enough.
The taste is young, fresh and tight with young, nice tannins and a long finish that ends on the dry side. Still rather closed. Didn´t change much between the two times. Good in a fairly mediocre way, but not inspiring.
82p   (tasted 2012/02)

2004 Barolo Vigna del Gris, Conterno Fantino - in Riedel Ouverture Redwine
A deeper, rounder, more elegant nose with more sweetness and a really nice mushroom/undergrowth note. The licorice is also here, but in a sweeter form. Much better on the nose. Much deeper.
The taste is almost as tight in this glass, but the fruit is darker and sweeter, and the finish isn´t as dry as in the ISO glass. And definitely longer. Very good. But still very young.
88p   (tasted 2012/02)

2004 Barolo Vigna del Gris, Conterno Fantino - in Riedel Vinum Bordeaux
All of a sudden the nose becomes more airy, hard to get a grip on. There is some dark fruit, the licorice is there, a touch of chocolate, but the overall impression is of a wine with a fleeting character.
The taste is very tight with almost hard tannins. The fruit takes the backseat but poppes up in the finish. A long finish. But the tannins really comes out in this glass. But it is deeper than the ISO glass.
85p   (tasted 2012/02)

2004 Barolo Vigna del Gris, Conterno Fantino - in Riedel Vinum Extreme Cabernet
The same airy nose as in the previous glass, its almost identical, maybe a little sweeter, but the same fleeting character.
The taste is also the same - the tannins in the foreground and the fruit in the background. But you can feel that it is a promising wine.
85p   (tasted 2012/02)

2004 Barolo Vigna del Gris, Conterno Fantino - in Riedel Vinum Burgundy
This is a whole other ball game! Rounder, deeper, sweeter with lovely red fruit - cherries and rasberries, and notes of licorice, forest floor, dark chocolate and a beautiful smoky note. Much better in this glass. The sweetness of the fruit really comes out.
The taste is also very different and much better - the tannins acts like a support to the fruit in this glass, not a center player on its own. Feels very young here too, but the structure is so much better. Really enjoyable to drink from this glass.
91p   (tasted 2012/02)

2004 Barolo Vigna del Gris, Conterno Fantino - in Riedel Vinum Extreme Pinot Noir
The Extreme version is almost identical to the previous glass. Sweet, lovely fruit, albeit a little darker and mustier, think rasberries soaked in old balsamic vinegar. Very, very good.
The taste is also resembles the Vinum glass but the tannins show of a tad more. Long, sweet and with a nice warmth. Also great to drink from.
90p   (tasted 2012/02)

2004 Barolo Vigna del Gris, Conterno Fantino - in Riedel Sommeliers Burgundy Grand Cru
Well, how did this big boy fared then? The fish tank in the glass world - you can fill it with 1050 ccm/37 oz of wine... "I only have one glass of wine each day..."
The nose is big and deep, but the size makes it a little fleeting. Previous experience with this glass demands a heady aroma for it to really do its work, but then it is great. The fruit is sweet and fine though.
But it is in the taste that this glass triumphs. The wine hits all the best parts of the tongue and the sweetness of the fruit really comes forward. Long and very fine. But the nose isn´t up to that of the Vinum glasses.
90p   (tasted 2012/02)

To sum up - the Pinot Noir types of glasses were the ones to go to for this wine. The Riedel generic red wine glass was really good. The Bordeaux glasses didn´t bring any enjoyment, and should be avoided. And the ISO glass? In my view - not for drinking wine anyway...

Hard work to do this for every wine...  With your average Cabernet, Pinot, Syrah - just go with their destined glass, and it will work fine. But for Barolo, I have over the years experimented with different glass, and sometimes the Bordeaux glasses have been the best, but most times I have prefered the Burgundy glasses. I have to make some more studies on the subject, what to open next...?


  1. Totally wonderful, thank you for doing this serious. ;)
    I don't have the riedelglasses myself but you get a sence of what its all about.

    I must admit that I have some serious thoughts on getting the Sommeliers Burgundy Grand Cru. Its hedonistic appearence is alone worth some space on the shelf. :)

    Looking forward to more tests on the subject.

    Best //David

  2. Thanks David! Well, the Sommeliers are worth it when you have an perfect aged Burgundy, but when you break one during dishes (which have happened...:-(), you cry for a minute and try to forget what they cost...
    And don´t forget - they can double as fish tanks! :-)


  3. Very interesting, more of this! Allowing the idea that different glasses bring out different aspects of the wine is somewhat difficult to accept at first, but once that's been done you are up for higher levels of wine understanding! :-)

    Last inventory counted some 90 glasses in all, mostly Riedel and Juhlin but there were a few old Orreforses and ISOs and some of which I don't know the exact origin.

  4. Thanks! The next project is Chardonnay - which glass suits a great white Burgundy best - stay tuned...:-)

  5. Nicely done! Agree with previous speaker, more of this :)
    By the way, got some ancient Barolos/Barbarescos delivered today (sent feb 8th) and of course I could not resist - popped a Fontanafredda Barolo 1985. Believed I paid just below 20€ - saw it for 85€ on another site. A marvellous bottle. Post on the way...

  6. Nice test. I have no doubt that the shape of the glass impacts the way we perceive the nose of the wine. For my nebbiolo, I prefer a big burgundy-style coupe over the standard ISO-glass every day of the week. Besides, a delicate glass with a thin stem is both sensual and esthetically pleasing. But come on - no way the structure changes with different glasses. I agree that this is some really good marketing by Riedel but can we just forget about the medically incorrect but longlived misconception about flavour zones on the tongue? Besides - do you swallow your wine instantly? Once it's in the mouth, it's in the mouth no matter how it got there. I always let a good wine really permeate my palate before swallowing...

    1. Thanks for the comments! To paraphrase an old saying - tasting is believing...
      All wine nerds swirl around the wine in their mouth before they swallow, that goes without saying. And still, tasting the same wine in a Bordeuax shaped glass and Burgundy shaped glass, you get a whole different feeling regarding the tannins, the sweetness, the alcohol etc. And thats not just Riedel, the glasses for every glass maker mentioned in the post have more or less the same effect, but for my taste Riedel works best.
      But to say that they have no effect, well....thats just making life to simplistic.

    2. I've been invited to a couple of Riedel tastings over the years, but never been able to attend, although I have several of their glasses at home. I might give it a try myself just for the fun of it. But shouldn't you taste blindfolded to make sure you don't have any bias? Also, at least two versions of each glass should be included at different places in the line up to see that the resultats are consistent...

      Next step from Riedel ought to be varietal specific decanters, no? How the oxygene molecules hit that fragile old nebbiolo is surely of utmost relevance. Of course you cannot pour a strapping young Napa Cab in the same decanter as a more mature Bourgogne ;-)

    3. Well, I have a rather simple principle - test for myself, and then form an opion, but different strokes, I guess...

  7. Oh, don't get me wrong - I've experimented with lots of different glasses. Just not as meticulously as in this post, more like two or three at the same time and many more over the years. And although I don't agree with your conclusion that the tannin structure differ from glass to glass (and I definitely don't buy Riedel's own marketing about flavour zones on the tongue which has been proven incorrect for decades) there is no question about the nose. And when it comes to overall experience - a good glass is a must. But hey - it's nerdy discussions like this that makes this passion so fun. Among many things. Thank you for a very nice blog.

    1. I totally agree - thanks! :-)

      And the same to you!

  8. Joakim, thanks for an interesting post about glasses. I find this area a bit complex, and "confusing". I have tried (not as thorough as you) same wine in different glass, but I have not found a really solid conclusion (except the more general ones that Franko writes aabove). With some wines, small difference in glass shape makes a big difference in how I experience the wine. With some other wines - the difference is much smaller. Any way - please continue to test and write!
    On another note - I read at WCTC about a tip from you on purchasing older vintages of Piemonte wines. Would you share that tip? And perhaps add some on buying mature Bdx? Best regards - Vintresserad (Peter)

    1. Hi Peter, and thanks!
      Mail me - - and we will sort something out...:-)