An evening with Georg Riedel

Last month, I attended a Riedel glassware seminar at the Holland Center. Dan Matuszek, who owns and runs Brix, has three times played host to Georg Riedel, who runs the giant glassware company Riedel. If you’ve sipped a glass of wine at an Omaha restaurant in the past year or two, there’s a good chance it was out of a Riedel glass.

That’s Georg above, pouring a glass of Cabernet at the end of the seminar from a Riedel “Eve” decanter, shaped like a cobra. Trust me, it takes a bit of skill to pour from that thing.

I’ve been to my fair share of wine tastings, but this wasn’t a basic wine tasting. Instead, it was a seminar dedicated to learning why it’s important to drink wine from the correct glass. Dan described the seminar as a mix between school and church — no talking, follow instructions, pay attention. I’d characterize it as an educational wine experience. Or, as Georg put it, his goal is to “complicate your wine enjoying life.”

I sat down with Georg, the 10th generation of the Riedel family, for a few minutes before the seminar started to chat. He’s been with the company since 1973, and under his hand, Riedel went from a small glassware company to a worldwide brand.

Georg believes firmly that using the correct wine glass will enhance the wine drinking experience. Riedel designs glasses for individual varietals of wine. The glass, he says, emphasizes the flavor of the wine and, as I learned in the seminar, the glasses work in specific, almost scientific, ways to deliver the wine to the taster’s palette. The vessel is important.

Georg said many people attend the seminar thinking that they don’t care for Pinot Noir and leave with changed minds. He only serves red wines at the seminars — we tried a Pinot, a Syrah and a Cabernet, all from Brix — because he said reds are “more expressive” than whites. I was curious about the claims he made about the wines — in short, that if you drink wine from the wrong glass, it simply doesn’t taste as good. The three glasses above, from left, are for Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet.

The tasting started not with a tasting of wine but with a tasting of water. Georg said he begins the tasting with water because it removes the sense of smell and taste from the experience of drinking. Instead, we would feel where the cold water landed on our palette and think about the exercise of swallowing.

It was pretty interesting. Each glass delivered the wine to a different spot in the taster’s mouth.

Riedel’s most popular glass is its Cabernet glass, and Georg said that’s based solely on customer aesthetics instead of wine delivery. People like the giant, dramatic appearance of the glass, but non-cabs don’t taste great out of this glass, he said.

Once we got into the wine tasting it was certainly about taste, but it was more scientific than that. Georg encouraged us to feel the wine in our mouths, to think about where on our palettes the liquid landed with each glass and to think about how each one tasted different when drunk from each glass.

I am not a wine expert, but I do enjoy wine. I did taste some differences during the tasting, especially in the case of the Pinot Noir, as Georg predicted. In the correct glass, the wine simply tasted richer, bolder and better. I didn’t notice as much of a difference with the other wines, but either way, the presentation was enchanting and the glasses quite beautiful.

I asked Georg if he thought most consumers would invest in so many different types of glasses for different types of wine. He said if people are investing hundreds of dollars a year in wine, they should enjoy those wines to the fullest by drinking them in the correct glass. But, if a wine drinker is only going to invest in one glass, the most versatile choice is Riedel’s Syrah glass, number two in the image above. Though all wines will not be expressed to their fullest in this glass, he said, it’s the one that works best for different varieties and its the most economic choice for those who don’t want to spend a ton. In short, it’s the company’s workhorse glass.

Georg said lots of consumers don’t like it as much because its small mouth makes it tougher to wash, but he argues this is a small price to pay if the wine in the glass tastes better. It’s hard to argue against that theory.

If you get a chance to attend one of these seminars, I would give it a try. It’s entertaining and informative, and the wines were lovely. At this seminar, attendees took home the glassware they used during the event. For a list of upcoming events at Brix, click here.

If you can’t attend a seminar, you can try the wines we tasted, all available at Brix, and you can go online to read Riedel’s Wine Glass Guide, which delves into the company’s philosophy. Users can click on varietals and see the glassware the company recommends,

The wines we tasted included the MacMurray Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 2008, $34.99; the Justin Paso Robles Syrah, 2008, $27.99; and the Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009, $34.99. All are available at Brix.

This post is not sponsored by Brix or Riedel. I did attend the seminar for free but the thoughts expressed are my own. 

This entry was posted in Omaha, Wine and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.