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Varietal glasses will affect wine's taste, smell

Does it really matter what type of glass you drink your wine from? That’s the question that Oregon Wine University’s class, "Clarity of Crystal: Riedel Glass," held during the Oregon Wine Experience, sought to answer. Riedel’s excellent Mari Beth Baumberger led us through a series of exercises demonstrating the dramatic difference that varietal specific glasses can have on how the wine smells and tastes.

Baumberger explained that the shape of the glass (what she calls the “physics of the glass”) impacts the wine in two ways: by directing the wine to different parts of the palate, and by concentrating or dissipating the volatile aromas of the wine in different parts of the glass. Let’s start by describing the four glasses used in class.

The Riesling Glass is tall and slim, with a 2¼-in. mouth, and directs the wine to the front of the palate. The Chardonnay Glass is larger and fish bowl-shaped with a 3¼-in. mouth. This glass directs the wine to the center of the palate. The Cabernet Glass is barrel shaped with a 2¾-in. mouth. The shape of this glass permits wine to coat the entire palate. Finally, the Pinot Noir Glass is wide at the bottom, narrowing to a 2¾-in. mouth. The Pinot Noir Glass causes the wine the hit the back of the palate first.

We started with a 2016 Kriselle Sauvignon Blanc in the Riesling Glass. The wine smelled of citrus with some minerality. In the mouth, the wine was a nice balance of a crisp acidity with a touch of sweetness. In the Chardonnay Glass, the Sav Blanc aromas were much less intense and seemed flat. The wine tasted bitter and the citrus had disappeared.

Next we tried a yet-to-be released 2016 Naumes Family Vineyard Chardonnay in the Chardonnay Glass. The wine had intense floral aromas with some minerality and vanilla. When drinking, the wine landed on the center palate with a clinging texture and lasting mouthfeel. However, in the Cabernet Glass, the Chardonnay was dull and harsh, with a bitter, alcoholic heat.

In the Pinot Noir Glass was a 2011 Serra Vineyards Pinot Noir. The wine had earthy aromas of cherry, baked fruit and raspberries. In the mouth, the wine offered a sweet sensation at the front palate with an acidic lift along the sides and back of the palate. In the Cabernet Glass, the Pinot Noir smelled dusty and alcoholic without any hint of fruit. The wine tasted bitter with no detectable fruit.

To my great surprise, the shape of the glass had a dramatic impact on both the taste and aroma of the wine. So what’s a gal or guy, who doesn’t have a wine glass for every occasion and varietal, to do? Don’t despair. Enjoy your wine in the glass you have, and when you get the chance, try a wine in a varietally specific glass and see if you agree that there is a difference. 

— Kevin Breck is a Jacksonville freelance writer and winemaker in training. Contact him at rogue.enofiles@gmail.com.