Decanting with Delkin
By Fred Delkin
His demeanor on the podium can be described as “pixieish”, but he delivers a very convincing lecture that should be heeded by every devotee of the fermented grape.. Georg Riedel, 10th generation of an Austrian glassmaking family, recently entertained and informed a Portland area audience of wine-serving professionals. We attended the event and laud Georg for providing an entertaining and very convincing demonstration of how his firm’s products maximize a wine’s impact on one’s senses.
Riedel (pronounced ‘riddle’) is CEO of a firm founded by his ancestors in 1756 in Kufstein in the Tyrol region near the Bavarian border. Their lead crystal glassware is handblown in a process originated some 2,000 years ago in the heyday of ancient Rome. In 1961, Riedel introduced its ‘wine specific’ stylings, which Georg convincingly presented with three models for red wines…a narrow opening (#1) for Pinot Noir, a medium opening (#2) for Syrah, Tempranillo, Zinfandel and a wide opening (#3) for full-bodied varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Barolo.
The professor began his presentation by having audience members sip plain ol’ water from each of these glass stylings. #1 concentrated taste on the front of the palate, #2 affected the back of the palate, and #3 stimulated the entire palate. As Georg said, “the taste is all about the flow,” and “the aftertaste defines the wine.” Next, he directed the audience to taste three wines in their appropriate glass designs…an Oregon Pinot Noir, an Australian Shiraz and a California Cabernet Sauvignon. First, he told his pupils to sniff the vino…”aroma is everything”…”smell is 75% of wine enjoyment”…”flavor combines both taste and smell.”
By golly, he made this veteran of the wine wars a true believer that the glass style is a defining featurein wine appreciation. Georg describes himself as engaging in the “:wine delivery business,” and makes no claim to making the product, and that he is also not in the “miracle business of turning water into wine.”
Our prof also told us that the temperature of the wine when served is a key to full enjoyment. Contrary to common belief, red wine should be served cool, at a low 60-degree point, which can be easily reached by immersing the opened bottle in a wine bucket with water and a handful of ice cubes. White wine should not be overly chilled, which dampens the flavor.
Riedel also produces some unique decanter styles, and our professor encouraged their use in maximizing the taste of a well-aged vintage, by aerating its qualities. Okay, we now sally forth with the axiom that wine glass design does make a difference, and one type of container does not fit all varietals. This, of course, can put a financial burden on the bar or restaurant owner, if they embrace good crystal such as Riedel produces. That lilting ‘ping’ of good crystal is mesmerizing,but it also signifies careful handling and washing to minimize breakage. However, Riedel does produce the new stemless glass tumblers engineered with the same varietal specific openings as the premier stemmed models.