While combing through the average Australian wine drinker’s kitchen cupboards, you’d be hard-pressed not to find a collection of the free wine glasses from wine festivals of days gone by, or hand-me-down glasses from parents, old boyfriends or housemates.
But, as you sip from the wine glass your mum bought in the 1980s, have you ever considered how its design could be affecting your wine experience?
According to Mark Baulderstone, Riedel Australia’s Managing Director - and a true Pinotphile - the design of the glass is paramount to telling the true story of a wine.
“Aroma is 70% of the experience when drinking wine,” he said. When you have the right glass, the wine aromatic layers are presented as the winemaker intended.
“The wine should have a great expression of fruit first, followed by the other elements.”
“From my perspective, the Pinot Noir grape is the most susceptible to changing in the glass due to its complexity,” Mark said.
“A great Pinot Noir can go from inspiring to dull in the wrong glass, so if I don’t see a Pinot Noir glass, I’ll usually drink something else!”
So, what defines the perfect Pinot Noir wine glass? The Pinot Noir glasses have a tulip shape to trap aromas while still providing ample breathing space inside the glass.
“It comes down to one factor: was the glass designed specifically for Pinot Noir? Our glasses are created through trial and error so the varietal’s characteristics influence the shape.”
At Riedel, the process of designing wine glasses is taken very seriously.
“Our design workshops are a very costly exercise, because we host multiple workshops for every new glass, and we need to produce handmade prototype glasses,” Mark said.
“In 2013, we carried out a workshop to produce a glass for Central Otago Pinot Noir, which involved 11 wineries, testing 14 different glasses.
"We poured the same wine into each of the 14 glasses, giving the winemakers around 20 minutes to assess the wine. We then carried out a vote to decipher which glass was the superior shape for Central Otago Pinot Noir.”
Mark said at this point workshops usually result in a stalemate, with two or three glasses seen as optimal for tasting - that’s when the real science begins.
“The voting is very interesting. There’s usually a clear consensus when it comes to the glasses that make the wine look terrible, but there’s often fierce debate surrounding the final two or three glasses.
“When this happens, we choose two glasses to go in to prototyping, where we mould the two together. This is when we really hone in on the design and produce the perfect glass for the wine in question. In the case of this particular workshop, the final result was the Riedel Heart to Heart Central Otago Pinot Noir.”
“For me, Pinot Noir is pretty much my go-to on a day-to-day basis,” Mark said.
“It’s not necessarily as high in alcohol as a lot of the heavier reds, certainly from Australia, and has a beautiful freshness and vibrancy of fruit.
"There’s a finesse and elegance about Pinot Noir – that’s why I love it.”
Next time you open a Pinot Noir at home, why not try the glass test yourself?
Mark suggests pouring your wine into a Riedel Pinot Noir wine glass and then a second glass that isn’t designed for the variety.
“Smell and taste them side-by-side,” he said. “You’ll definitely experience a difference.”