Stemware Showdown: New Glasses take on Riedel

By Kori ~ October 12th, 2010.

Wine lovers spend a lot of time talking about wine itself but very little time talking about the glasses in which that wine is served. As we have said before, good wine glasses do make a difference. However, before you roll your eyes in disagreement or, conversely, fear that you’ll have to take out a second mortgage for new stemware, please just hear me out. While good wine glasses can improve the overall wine drinking experience, it is not necessary to become obsessive about it. The most important thing is consistency. When you taste wines, it is important to use the same glass for all of the wines in the tasting. And if you are going to be discussing the wines with a group, it is important for each person in the group to be drinking from the same type of glass.

Nevertheless, if you are a wine enthusiast who wishes to make the most of your wine drinking experiences at home, you’ll want to consider adding some good wine glasses to your wine toolkit. Riedel has been the standard-bearer for fine stemware for 50 years while the Riedel family has been a glassmaking dynasty in Austria for over 250 years. In 1961, Claus Riedel (the 9th generation Riedel in the glassmaking business) really distinguished the Riedel Company in stemware as he focused on function over aesthetics and produced glasses specially made to enhance specific styles of wine. He launched the handmade Sommeliers series in 1973. His son, Georg Riedel, took his vision even further by producing grape-specific glasses and also developing a line of machine-made glasses, the Vinum series, to make the Riedel glasses more affordable.

My Dad’s cousin Marie Morris and her husband Dink were the ones who first introduced me to Riedel wine glasses and the difference good wine glasses can make, and they gave Colby and me our first set of Riedel glasses when we got married. We have used Riedel glasses virtually every day since. Recently, three different manufacturers have sent us samples of their stemware to try.

Eisch Glaskultur is a small glass producer from Germany. We received two red wine glasses from their Superior Line, one with their proprietary SensisPlus treatment and one without. Their claim: “Wine poured in SensisPlus glasses becomes more harmonious and complex, with better balance and greater elegance.”

Andrea Robinson is a Master Sommelier, wine educator, and author. Based on her wine knowledge and experience, she has developed her own line of stemware called The One. We received two The One glasses, one white stem and one red stem. Their claim: “The One white stem is the only glass you will ever need to optimize the scent and taste of all white wines, and The One red stem is the only glass you will ever need to optimize the scent and taste of all red wines. It’s really that simple.”

Ravenscroft Crystal has been producing handmade, lead-free crystal for years; although, for much of their history, their products were produced for other brands and sold under other brand names. They have been producing wine-specific stemware and decanters under the Ravenscroft name since 1999. Last year, Ravenscroft released a new collection of stemware called Invisibles. The Invisibles Collection includes eight varietal, specific shapes. We received one Invisibles Bordeaux/Cabernet glass. Their claim: “The delicate hand and mouth feel of a Ravenscroft Crystal Invisible wine glass delivers a whisper-light, sensuous, tactile, elegant, perfectly tuned and virtually undistracted precision tool experience, that is perfect for the most discriminating wine enthusiast.”

In true Wine Peeps fashion, we decided to evaluate them in the only way we know how to do so fairly…blind. Differing slightly from our blind wine tastings, our comparative tasting of stemware was done using the same wine in each glass while we were blindfolded. Mom (LaGayle) prepared the tastings, one red and one white, and then put the glasses in front of Dad (John) and me for evaluation. As we tasted, we made our comments aloud as Mom took notes. After our rankings were complete, we took off our blindfolds to see how they finished.

Results of the red stem showdown:

  1. Riedel Vinum Bordeaux (~$30/stem) – Our favorite in terms of overall feel and best expression of aromas and flavors.
  2. Eisch Superior Red Wine (~$22.50/stem) – A very close second. Very similar in terms of feel to the Riedel. Good expression of aromas and flavors.
  3. Eisch Superior SensisPlus Red Wine (~$30/stem) – Exhibited very good aromatics but overall expression of flavors was not as good as the standard Eisch or Riedel.
  4. Andrea Robinson The One Red (~$12.50/stem) – Good aromatics but the feel and shape of the glass was a bit awkward. You have to tilt the glass way up to take a sip. However, a beautiful glass in appearance.
  5. Ravenscroft Invisibles Bordeaux/Cabernet (~$10/stem) – Extremely light, which we found awkward and distracting. Stored under the same conditions as the other glasses, after a few days, this one appeared cloudy, almost frosted over while the others were still crystal clear and clean.

Results of the white stem showdown:

  1. Riedel Vinum Chablis/Chardonnay (~$25/stem) – Our favorite in terms of overall feel and best expression of aromas and flavors.
  2. Andrea Robinson The One White (~$12.50/stem) – Good aromatics but the feel and shape of the glass was a bit awkward. You have to tilt the glass way up to take a sip. However, a beautiful glass in appearance.

The Riedel Vinum stemware fended off the challengers to win both the red and white stem showdowns. The Eisch Superior glasses finished in a close second and third place among the red stems.  If you are looking to start or add to your stemware collection, I can easily recommend both Riedel and Eisch. Obviously, I understand that $30/stem, for which both the Riedel Vinum and Eisch retail, may be a bit pricey. Therefore, for an everyday all-purpose stem, I highly recommend another glass in the Riedel line, the Riedel Ouverture Red Wine glass. It is the glass that we use most often for both red and white wines and retails for ~$10-12/stem.

What is your favorite stemware, for special occasions and for everyday use?


Full Disclosure: We received the stemware from Eisch, Andrea Robinson The One, and Ravenscroft as samples.

Filed under: General Wine Information, Wine Gadget, Wine Gifts/Accessories

Reader's Comments

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