Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Grape Story

It was 11 AM and I’d already been drinking for half an hour. Yes, that IS rather early, and no, I don’t have an alcohol problem. I was sipping chardonnay and cabernet professionally, a participant in a seminar led by Georg Riedel. His family company, Riedel Glas Austria, makes wine glasses, but these are not conventional stemware. These “vessels," as he calls them are varietal specific: one shape and size for Pinot Noir, something quite different for Zinfandel. Glasses, he tells the audience, are tools for transforming the perception of what’s in them. His goal was to demonstrate that wines drank from the appropriate glass taste better.

I started out a skeptic and finished a true believer. It was an absolutely mind blowing experience – and not because I was intoxicated. This was physics at work and the intentional engineering of the interaction between molecules and senses.

We sniffed then sampled a dry Ohio Riesling made by Debonné Vineyards from a plastic cup. It was okay, nothing special. Then we pour it into Riedel’s Riesling glass and try it again. I would not have believed this was the same wine if I hadn’t transferred it from one to the other myself. A heady aroma of white peaches, apricots and a hint of honeysuckle was pronounced. The flavor was beautiful- stone fruits, acidity balanced by minerality Then we poured it into a quality generic glass (also made by Riedel). The wine went a bit flat, losing much of its intensity on the nose and the palate.

We repeated the experiment with other wines and the results were always the same. The Riedel glasses helped the wine express itself and enhanced my ability to distinguish all the nuances of taste and aroma that form its distinctive character. I can’t afford to go out and buy multiple sets but I’m thinking that I’d like to slowly acquire a few for our favored varietals. And I definitely have a new respect for restaurants and winery tasting rooms that use them.

The session was part of a conference sponsored by The Ohio Wine Producers Association that was held last week in Geneva (as in nearby “on-the-Lake”, not Switzerland.). Representatives from twenty wine producing states between the East Coast and the Rockies showed up to swap ideas and show off their products. I tried lots of red and whites from many lesser known American wine producing regions and two varietals new to me - Traminette from Indiana, and Missouri Norton. I also learned about some destination wine trails around Ohio and in New York, Maryland and Iowa, and met many passionate promoters and vintners.

I also picked up information about a local event scheduled for Saturday, April 24th. Around the World in the Grand River Valley Wine Region is a progressive, drive-yourself, eat and drink fundraiser for area foodbanks. Five wineries within 10 minutes of each other, and just a short drive from Cleveland, will be offering their European style wines paired with hearty appetizers. Sounds like a delightful way to while away a few Saturday afternoon hours.
Grand River Cellars, Madison

1 comment:

Laura Taxel said...

Funny coincidence- a piece in Slate
yesterday about why the glass matters