at the Wine Rack

with Christopher Reckord

Thursday, December 07, 2017

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Now that the festive season is upon us, companies will host their customers to express gratitude for their business, while friends and families will come together to break bread, as has become customary at this time of year. Wine and especially Champagne will play a large part of these celebrations. No better time, we reckon, to scrutinise the stemware.

It's all in the glass

You don't need to be a wine writer, a wine maker or an expert to taste the difference that a glass can make. I have had the opportunity to sit in a number of wine and stemware seminars, including one conducted by Maximilian Riedel, who was then president of Riedel Crystal USA. It was Riedel's grandfather, Claus, who created the first line of wine glasses in different shapes and sizes, to enhance the character of specific types of wine. Max's father, Georg, initiated research into the construction of the wine glass, in relation to its ability to greatly enhance the delivery and taste of all types of wines. This formed part of the information shared in the session. An assortment of varietals were poured into a range of wine glasses with very interesting results; for example, a California Chardonnay poured into Riedel's Vinum Chardonnay glass emphasised notes of tropical fruit and expanded lusciously in the mouth. When the same wine was poured into the Vinum Sauvignon Blanc glass, it seemed to lose its depth. Creamy oak and vanilla overpowered the other flavours. It also seemed unpleasantly tannic. Similar experiments were done with Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon — with similar results. I started as a sceptic and ended up leaving with a set of these glasses and have been happily using them for years.

Since Riedel raised the bar, a number of crystal and stemware manufacturers have jumped in with their own research and have all begun expanding their lines to include glasses for specific types of grapes. Conventional wine wisdom tells us that most of us need no more than three types of glasses: a large tulip-shaped one for red, a small tulip-shaped for white and a flute for Champagne and other sparkling wines, but I have noticed a shift in the industry with respect to the flute.


Flutes or Champagne Wine Glasses

A few years ago, I visited several Champagne houses in France and noticed that they were not using flutes in the tastings. Most had created their own stemware that were larger and wider than typical flutes, while some were using regular white wine glasses. Flutes which show the tiny, rising bubbles perfectly had replaced coupes and saucers which caused the bubbly to easily spill and lose its fizz. The main issue now is that many of the Champagne makers are complaining that flutes greatly limit the ability to explore the depth of aroma and flavour of what they are producing.

Speaking to in London in 2013, Maximilian Riedel, who is now chief executive of Riedel Crystal, said, “It is my goal that the flute will be obsolete by the day that I pass away.” There is a business angle to this, of course. “Champagne is a playground with no end,” he said, citing the potential for every house's Grande Cuvée to have a specific glass assigned to it.

Riedel, like other glass manufacturers, has helped many Champagne houses to create their own custom Champagne stemware. For the consumer, they have also created speciality stemware including one of my favourites, simply known as the Champagne Wine Glass.

For now though, I believe the Champagne flute will continue to be hugely popular in our developing markets because of familiarity and perhaps its role as a status symbol.


Christopher Reckord - Information Technology Entrepreneur & Wine Enthusiast. Send your questions and comments to You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram @chrisreckord and on Twitter: @Reckord

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