Finally got to one of the Riedel family's famous glass tastings on Feb 2, 2011 at SFMOMA. As part of the Architecture and Design Forum's "How Wine Became Modern" Design + Wine 1976 to Now installation (now until April 17), sponsor Riedel (pronounced Ree-del) offered up a deeply discounted tasting for 100 lucky people, including me. This fee amazlingly included 3 top Sommelier-series glasses as souvieners, The Montrachet, the Burgundy Grand Cru, and the Bordeaux. These are stunning glasses in appearance, no argument from anyone about that. The point of this tasting is to convince the taster that the shape of the glass enhances the nose and where it physically hits your palate, thereby enhancing the wine. Yes, you leave convinced and want to rush out and get more of these beautiful glasses, and Maximillan Riedel, the 11th generation of glass makers, is a master presenter. His performance alone is worth the price of this tasting, as his presentation is charming, funny, and ultimately convincing.
While I certainly was impressed by the enhancements to the nose compared to the universal tasting glass and the neutral plastic cup, I am not a good candidate to speak to the shape. The idea is that the shape forces the tannins to the right part of your tongue. I noticed during this tasting that I generally don't let the wine bathe my tongue the way the glass is intended, but I tend to curl my tongue up as the wine hits my mouth, trapping it for the full-on swish-it-all-around-and-slurp-style tasting. I'm not saying the glass doesn't work, I'm just saying maybe not for everyone.
My favorite is the Grand Cru Burgundy, which I have used at friends' houses as well. This is a great Pinot glass, and yes, I'm going to order at least one more. ($125 each). I also loved the way the Bordeaux glass made the young Mondavi Cab come alive. I may just have to get one more of them too...The balloon-shaped Montrachet glass was the most unusual for me. I have Baccarat versions of these and have always favored them for red wine. Next time, though, I'll pour a nice Chassagne in the Riedel and my Baccarats and have a little taste test of my own.
Go see the exhibit as well. I was in a hurry and haven't gotten the whole experience yet, but I plan on it soon.