I got invited (thanks, imstillhungry!) to an event organised by blurb, an awesome publishing startup based in San Francisco. The event was a Glassware Masterclass hosted by Riedel Australia/NZ and held at the Sydney Wine Centre in Pyrmont. Full. On! I love wine, and I have to admit, I like drinking wine from a nice wine glass. You know, not from those thick-rimmed wine glasses you get at pubs and sports bars. But boy, once the night was over, my wine knowledge was taken up a notch and mind was blown. Disclaimer: Please bear with me if/when at times I sound like a complete wine douche, I by all means don’t want to be/am not that person. But, I am all about knowledge sharing, so think of this post as a bit of wine education and you’ll thank me later when you’ve had your next wine experience and it’s been that touch more interesting and exciting. Enough of the introductions, lets go…
Upon arrival, I was handed a delicious French sparkling and helped myself to some taleggio (one of my favourite cheeses at the moment). The night was off to a good start. Then, Jess (of blurb) provided a brief overview of what the night entailed consisting of two parts: the Riedel Glassware Masterclass; and a little lesson on food and wine pairing. Beaming, I thought, could this night get any better? But wait, Jess then says, “oh and don’t discard the Riedel box sitting on your seat, you’ll need it for later when you take your glasses home with you tonight”. I diiieed, and bashfully walked over to my seat trying to conceal how happy I was inside.
After all the introductions from our hosts, it was time for the magic show, i.e. the Glassware Masterclass. The Riedel rep began his show with the following tidbits:
- Drinking wine is a sensory experience through: 1. Sight: ‘drink with your eyes’ – look for colour, density, viscosity; 2. Aroma/smell: 70-80% wine experience is through smell, unlocks the secret of what the wine has to offer; and 3. Taste: your palate.
- Swirling wine, why? Swirling increases the evaporative surface of the wine, and releases the wine’s aroma.
- Legs, or tears of wine (when you swirl the wine and there are streams of wine flowing down the sides of your glass) means nothing when it comes to the quality of wine. It merely denotes the amount of alcohol and sugar in the wine – more legs more alcohol content.
- Fruit is the backbone of the wine experience, if you lose fruit in wine it becomes unappealing.
- Winemaker’s objective is to produce wine that is ‘balanced’.
- Three components of white wine: fruit (or sweetness), acidity and alcohol. Add another component for red wine: tannins.
- Two types of acid: lactic (or malolactic) which is soft, creamy, oaky, buttery like a Chardonnay; and tartaric acid which is sharp.
Now for the magic tricks. We had four different types of wine to taste (see below), a Sauvignon Blanc (2), Chardonnay (3), Pinot Noir (4) and a Cabernet Merlot (5), served in glasses specifically made for that type of wine. Don’t mind the joker glass there, or the XL5 tasting glass, just another glass to test the wines in.
While explaining why different kinds of wines needed a particular glass (e.g. for more aeration or whatever) we put these theories to the test, and tasted the wine in its rightful glass then in different glasses. Admittedly, I was super sceptical to begin with, but my god, it truly did make a difference. And now I am ruined for life. One wine in three different glasses, three different perceptions. Here is an example, the Pinot Noir (2014 Tolpuddle from Tasmania, which was delicious btw) in its rightful glass tasted peppery, herbacious, silky, and had beautiful aromatics (earthy, smelling like crushed ants) where you could dig through the layers. Digging through the layers means going from the front to the back of your palate. The Pinot at the front of the palate tasted of cherries, rasberries, in the middle it had spice tannins, while the back had a long tail which meant the wine had harmony and is balanced. However, when the Pinot was poured into the Chardonnay glass, the fruit aromas were missing, the wine was thinner, grainier and the after taste was flat and short. We did the same kind of thing with the other wines we tasted, and I kid you not, the wines tasted different in each glass. If you don’t believe me, go try it out for yourself.
To end this post, here are some tasting notes I wrote down from the class if you ever want to sound like a snoot in front of your friends, OR something you could genuinely look out for to enhance your next wine experience and test your palate.
- Sauvignon Blanc (Shaw and Smith, Adelaide Hills, 2015): taste fruit, acidity, then fruit again. Green, herbacious notes, capsicum, tropical, alcohol is not prominent.
- Chardonnay (Vasse Felix, Margaret River, 2015): tropical, vanilla, and hints of pineapple at the front of the palate. Acidity, creamy with a buttery after taste at the back. Soft, elegant, and long.
- Pinot Noir (Tolpuddle, Tasmania, 2014): great wine, especially with a piece of Lindt white chocolate. Cherries, rasberries, spice. Silky, peppery with beautiful aromatics, structured and balanced.
- Cabernet Merlot (Moss Wood Ribbon Vale, Margaret River, 2012): Blackcurrents, pepper notes, mint on the nose. Still a young wine, has lots of life ahead.