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How to Swirl and Sniff Wine Like a Pro

May 29th, 2012 1 comment

At tastings, many newcomers to the world of wine are unsure about the proper etiquette surrounding swirling and sniffing wine.  Is there a right way to do it?  Or is it a little like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup slogan: there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s?

wines lined up and ready to taste in proper wine glasses

Wines lined up and ready to taste! (Image from Wikipedia)

Since wine’s scent and taste are both key elements of any tasting, swirling and sniffing are encouraged in order to get the best overall sense of a wine.  While most newcomers think taking a single long, drawn out sniff from their glass completes the process, that’s only a beginning part!  Before even smelling your wine, you should be swirling it.  Swirling aerates wine, opening it up so that its inherent scents and flavors are brought to the fore.  You can swirl your glass while it is on the table, or you can hold your glass by the base or stem to swirl it.  What matters most is that you actually do swirl your wine!

Once your wine is swirled a bit, put your nose into the glass as far as it will go. (Don’t submerge your nose in the wine!)  Inhale deeply for a couple of seconds.  Use your diaphragm (your “belly”) to take in a full whiff of the wine’s aroma.  Swirl your glass a little more, then inhale again, smelling the wine a second time.  Swirl, sniff, swirl, sniff, etc.  See if you can identify the scents you are smelling.  Do you smell the wine’s fruitiness?  Do you smell berries, cherries, or figs?  Do you smell lemon, grapefruit, peach, or mango?  Observe how swirling and aerating your wine helps bring out a variety of curious scents hidden, before, in your wine.

While there are several quality wine glasses to choose from, wine glasses made specifically for the types of wine you’re tasting often allow you to perceive that wine’s aromas to the fullest.  For red wine tasting, consider using Riedel “O” stemless glasses, available as a mixed set, designed to enhance the main red varietals.  For white wines, consider a glass designed for your specific varietal, like a Riedel Vinum Classic Sauvignon Blanc wine glass for tasting Blanc fumé, Fumé blanc, Rotgipfler, Sancerre, Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon, Spätrot-Rotgipfler, and Zierfandler.  Breathe in, and enjoy the experience!  Cheers!

 

Musical Wine Glasses

July 22nd, 2011 1 comment
Benjamin Franklin playing on the glass harmonica

Image courtesy of violinstudent.com

When was the last time you ran a moistened finger along the rim of a crystal wine glass, making it sing?  Perhaps, after reading this post, you’ll give it a try tonight! Concerts of “glass music” produced by this same technique used to be all the rage in Europe.  There were even performers, like the blind Marianne Kirchgessner, with entire careers that consisted of playing musical glasses.  Benjamin Franklin, after attending such concerts in London, invented and perfected the “Glass Harmonica,” an instrument made of concentric glasses mounted on a rod, turned by a treadle, the size of each glass determining its pitch.  Touching the rims of the turning glasses produced audible notes, and several glasses could even be touched simultaneously to produce chords.  Although it was something of a novelty instrument, many prominent composers wrote music for it, including Beethoven and Mozart.  In fact, Mozart’s Adagio for Glass Harmonica, K.365, is one of the last pieces Mozart composed. But, like the clear beverage craze in the early 1990’s that faded by the middle of the decade, the glass harmonica’s popularity came to an end around 1815, with few instruments built after 1820.  Today, there are special manufactures who do make glass harmonicas, but professional glass harmonica players are very rare.  Still, the ethereal, haunting, otherworldly sound of the glass harmonica can be heard in several films, including Interview with the Vampire,  Mesmer,  Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and popular recordings like Björk’s “All Neon Like”.  If you want to know what this instrument sounds like, all you need to do is run your finger across the rim of a wine glass.  Crystal wine glasses, like those produced by Riedel, often work best.  Be sure, however, that you use a glass with a stem, otherwise the hand holding the glass will stop the tone.  Have fun!

Riedel Wine Collection Shiraz/Syrah Wine Glasses

Decant, and Taste the Difference!

June 20th, 2011 No comments

In a previous post, Dine With Open Wine, we discussed some of the benefits of decanting wine.  While it’s one thing to read about what decanting does to a wine, experiencing it is another matter.  And what better way to experience the dramatic impact decanting has than to conduct your own comparison of decanted and non-decanted wine at home, or with a group of adventurous guests?  You’ll obviously need a good bottle of wine–try this with one of your favorites to really appreciate the effect–and a decanter such as the Riedel Cabernet Wine Decanter or, if you really want to impress, the Riedel Ultra Magnum Decanter.  Next, make sure the glasses you’re using match the wine you’re serving.  (For instance, don’t use white wine glasses if you’re pouring Merlot, etc.)  Wondering about the variety of wine glasses available? Check out our article on types of wine glasses in the Education Center. Ready to shop? We have a full line of Riedel glassware.

After you have selected your wine, open it and fill a set of glasses with it directly from the bottle.  Next, gingerly pour the remaining wine into the decanter of your choice.  (N.B. Most decanted wines begin to open in minutes, so it’s best to serve them shortly after decanting.)  Have your guests smell and taste their wine which came directly from the bottle.  Now, pour the decanted wine into a second set of glasses, and let your guests compare the boutique, taste, and finished of the decanted wine with that which was not decanted.  It’s a guarantee you’ll see many wide, pleasantly-surprised eyes!   While decanting will not make a “bad” wine into an instant winner, it will certainly enhance the appeal of average wines, and substantially augment the pleasure of exceptional wines.  Still not convinced?  Try hosting a decanting party and taste for yourself!  The reward is worth it!  For more detailed information about decanting, or other wine-related topics visit our Wine Storage Education Center online.  Happy decanting!

Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Golfers & Wine Lovers (and what dad isn’t one of those?)

June 17th, 2011 No comments

Dads deserve appreciation all the time, but it’s especially important to make Father’s Day the one day that your dad will remember forever—or, at least, until next June. And today, you’re in luck: if your dad is into sports or wine, you can sit back and let Vintage Cellars take the work out of shopping for the perfect Father’s Day gift.

Sporty Dads

mulholland leather golf bag

If your Dad spends most of his weekends on the golf course, check out our line of Mulholland Leather Bags and Golf Equipment. Help Dad relax and have fun with the Endurance Sunday Bag, an all-leather bag designed for the practice range, short-yardage courses, and casual games of weekend golf with buddies and brothers. Or, if he wouldn’t part with his current bag, a Golf Ball and Tee Holder might be a good bet. This beautiful piece holds three balls and four tees, and the leather loop and buckle allow Dad to easily attach it to his favorite golf bag.

If your father isn’t into golf, the All Leather Shoe Bag or Endurance Shoe Bag can be used to carry shoes for all sports: cleats for football or baseball, running sneakers, bowling shoes, or even wrestling and volleyball shoes. And, of course, both bags work well for golf shoes, too.

 

 

Wine-Loving Dads

Rogar Opener

If your father isn’t the most athletic of men, Vintage Cellars has you covered. Help Dad create a relaxing environment with our Rogar Estate Wine Opener with Antique Bronze Finish, Hardwood Handle, & Table Stand. This magnificent showpiece adds style to any wine room, kitchen, living room, or den. If Dad liked to keep things simple, our Rogar Estate Pewter Wine Opener would make a perfect addition to his wine accessory drawer. For other ideas, our complete collection of Rogar Accessories is worth a look.
Riedel O glass
If fancy wine openers aren’t Dad’s thing, try our Riedel “O” stemless glassware. The Complete Stemless Wine Glass Collection is a set of 12, each specially designed to enhance the flavors of a separate wine varietal. If Dad doesn’t need a large set, you can get him the set of 2 “O” wine glasses that is suited for his favorite wine, such as these”O” Cabernet/Merlot Stemless Wine Glasses.

If your dad’s perfect Father’s Day gift isn’t featured here, you can always contact us with questions as you browse the rest of our online catalog.

Happy Father’s Day from Vintage Cellars!

Look at Those (Wine) Legs!

June 8th, 2011 No comments

wine glass

With appropriately-matched, quality wine glasses like Riedel Sommelier Wine Glasses or Riedel Vinum Extreme Wine Glasses, it is not only easier to notice the characteristic fragrances and tastes of your selected wine, it is also easier to see the beauty of your delicate beverage.  With a clear wine glass, the clarity, color and depth of your wine are highlighted like never before, allowing you to more accurately judge your wine’s age, the types of grapes used in its making, and even the climate of the vintage.  You can even learn about your wine when swirling to open it.  When swirling, your wine will create “legs” (or, in the more poetic French, “tears”).  These are the small droplets that form in the ring above the surface of your wine while you swirl it.  It was once believed that the more legs a wine had, the better its quality.  However, this is untrue, as various atmospheric conditions (and physics!) have expunged this myth.   What is true is that the speed of falling legs can tell you about the wine’s sugar concentration and richness.  Generally, slower falling wine legs denote richer wines high in sugar content as opposed to thinner wines with less sugar.  Try examining the tears of both a sweet and a dry Riesling with Riedel Sommeliers Riesling Grand Cru Wine Glasses.  You’ll be in for an educational treat!  While aroma and taste play such an important part in wine appreciation, paying attention to appearance, too, greatly enhances the tasting experience.  In fact, visual cues can even suggest additional possibilities to your palate you may have initially filtered out!

Riedel Sommelier glasses

Dine with Open Wine!

May 27th, 2011 1 comment

wine decanter
Want to learn the basics about decanters and decanting? Check out our Decanting article in the Wine Storage Education Center!

There’s something refreshing about properly-decanted wine, especially when served with the main course!  Some savvy restaurants practice the art of decanting so that your wine will open to its fullest by the time your meal arrives.  The arts of cooking, serving, sipping, and eating all depend on timing.  One disruption to the balance of a prepared meal is a carefully-selected wine that is closed come mealtime.  Waiting for it to open may make your food go cold, and it also disrupts the pace of the dinner.  In short, decanting is a terrific way to help make your wine-paired dinners as well-timed as those you experience in your favorite restaurants.

Though you may already be decanting wine at home, the use of a specialized decanter helps your wine oxidize quicker while adding an element of visual grace and elegance.  In particular, Riedel wine decanters are carefully shaped to allow a greater amount of wine to come into contact with the air.  Unlike a common water pitcher, the Grape Riedel Wine Decanter is crafted for “full oxygenation” which definitely improves the taste and aroma of your favorite wine.  The graceful, mouth blown Riedel Amadeo Lyra Decanter, launched in 2006 to celebrate Reidel’s 250th anniversary, adds additional elegance and style to your wines’ presentation.  The Riedel Extreme Decanter, dubbed “The Work of Art Decanter” by the New York Times, is designed to encourage young wines to open, as well as vintage wines.  (Decanting older wines just before serving helps keep a wine’s brilliance and clarity from being impaired by sediments that may have developed over the years).  No matter what Riedel wine decanter you choose, you’ll be bringing the best of the science of oxygenation and hand-crafter art together, with wine, for a memorable dining experience.

Riedel decanter

 

Wine Glasses 101

May 23rd, 2011 1 comment

typical red wine glass shape

In addition to looking sophisticated and fun, wine glasses come in various shapes and sizes to bring out the best in your wine.  For instance, a typical red wine glass is larger and more rounded than a glass designed for whites.  A prime example of an excellent red wine glass is the Riedel Vinum Classic Burgundy. This allows more air to come into contact with the wine, provides additional space for adequate swirling when opening, and also better accommodates your nose when enjoying the complex scent of a red.  Some stemless red wine glasses, such as any from the Riedel O Wine Glasses collection, have even larger openings and are particularly nice for these reasons!

White wine glasses, being thinner and taller, keep wine at a cooler temperature for longer.  A good example of a typical white wine glass is the Riedel Sommeliers Chablis/Chardonnay. Sparkling wine glasses, also called flutes, are very narrow.  Even if you’re new to the world of wine, you’ve probably used them at least once when drinking a toast at a wedding.  The Riedel Sommeliers Vintage Champagne glass (right) is a good, typical example. Their narrow shape helps to preserve the wine’s carbonation.

Lastly, dessert wine glasses are almost always smaller than the others.  Designed to rush sweet wine to the back of the tongue so its sweetness is not overpowering, they typically range from near shot glass size to a little smaller than a sparkling wine glass.  They also tend to have shorter stems.  Crystal-clear wine glasses are often ideal, especially when visually inspecting your wine.  Though it’s hard to tell from the picture, the Riedel Sommeliers Vintage Port Glass is a good example of a dessert wine glass.

Blown glass, which is particularly thin, is quite good for both visual inspection as well as tasting; you can take smaller sips of wine because the lip of the glass is not as thick.  (Remember to be gentle if toasting with thinner glasses, though!)  Although it’s not essential to drink wine from the proper glass, choosing the right type of glass to complement your vino will definitely enhance your overall experience.

Categories: Tasting Wine Tags: ,

Great Glassware from Riedel

January 20th, 2011 1 comment

Riedel wine glasses are some of the most popular gifts for wine lovers out there.  And for good reason: Riedel glasses are among the best out there.  They’re handmade and perfectly crafted to get the most taste out of your favorite wines.  They’re also beautiful.

But Riedel doesn’t only make glasses.  They also make gorgeous decanters.  Decanting wine is an oft-ignored but very valuable technique.  It can really help you get the most out of that special bottle you’ve been aging, and it makes for a gorgeous presentation at your next dinner party (or the next time you’re relaxing on the couch at home).  Here are some of our favorite decanters from Riedel.
decanter

The Riedel Cabernet decanter is a classic, elegant shape.  It would look gorgeous on your bar or dining room table.  And of course, it will help you bring out the most in your wines.

tyrol

The Riedel Tyrol decanter is just as elegant, but it takes an unusual, eye-catching shape.  When not in use, it rests gracefully on its side to aerate the wine.

martini pitcher

Ok, ok, this isn’t a decanter.  It’s a martini pitcher!  A martini pitcher is a must-have for parties, and this one, with its classic-yet-edgy shape, will never go out of style.

Categories: Wine Gifts Tags: ,

Wine Gift: Riedel Wine Glasses

December 4th, 2010 No comments

Riedel has been making the world’s premiere wine glasses for more than 250 years.  For the serious wine collector, they’re almost a necessity.  For the more casual wine enthusiast, they’re a beautiful, classic way to enjoy great wines.  Riedel glasses make great holiday gifts for anyone who has a special place in his heart for wine.

Riedel makes a wide variety of glass styles.  One great choice is the Riedel Sommelier line.  Their graceful shapes and long, delicate stems make them an elegant choice for the holiday season. Even better, these lovely glasses are on sale–check Facebook, Twitter or the latest VC newsletter for coupon codes for Riedel Sommelier, Howard Miller and WineKeeper products.

Glasses from the Sommelier line are perfect for the serious wine lover.  For someone who’sriedel o a little more casual about wine, a perfect choice is the “O” Stemless line.  These family-style glasses are great for casual gatherings, dinner parties with friends, and just sitting around and enjoying a glass.

Don’t forget if neither of these lines are what you’re looking for for the wine lover in your life, Riedel makes many more choices.

Tongue Maps Are A Myth: How Taste Really Works

May 21st, 2010 No comments

Last week, we talked about Claus Riedel’s obsession with designing the perfect wine glass.  One of his objectives was to direct the wine to the “correct” part of the mouth so that the right taste buds would make first contact.  Well, that seems logical–we all remember those “tongue maps” like the one below from elementary school science class, right?  But here’s the catch: your tongue doesn’t work like that.  And what’s more, researchers have known it for at least 30 years.

tongue map diagram showing supposed tasting areas

The myth: 1. Bitter 2. Sour 3. Salty 4. Sweet

Riedel‘s advancements in glass design have made a huge impact on the wine industry.  Many experts, we at Vintage Cellars among them, agree that enjoying your wine from the correct glass can make a huge difference in the aroma and flavor of your wine.  Check out our post on the subject to learn more.  But please don’t believe any glassware’s claims to direct the wine to the “right” area on your tongue, because there isn’t one.

Want to know how your sense of taste really works?  Here’s a little science:

You know all those tiny bumps covering the surface of your tongue?  Those aren’t your taste buds.  They are called papillae, and your taste buds sit on some of them.  When you take a sip of wine, it mixes with your saliva and enters small openings on your tongue to come in contact with your taste receptors.   (You have many different kinds of receptors; they are what help you sense heat, noise, light, and everything else in the world around you.)  The taste receptor cells send information through your seventh, ninth, and tenth cranial nerves to the areas of the brain that process and interpret taste.

diagram of taste bud

Schematic drawing of a taste bud

You have between 2,000 and 8,000 taste buds that can sense at least five tastes: sweet, salty, biter, sour, and umami (or savory).  Although there is some variation, all of your taste buds detect the five tastes more or less equally, regardless of their location on the tongue.

So then how did the myth get started?

In 1901, a German research paper on taste by a scientist named D.P. Hanig was mistranslated by a Harvard academic.  Hanig had simply concluded that sensitivity to various tastes seems to vary between different tongue locations.  From this paper arose the infamous tongue map.  No one challenged this interpretation until 1974, when a scientist named Virginia Collins re-examined Hanig’s paper and found that all five tastes can be detected anywhere there are taste buds.  Put a little sugar on the back of your tongue.  Even though according to the tongue map, it’s the front part that perceives “sweet,” you’ll find that you can taste it no matter where it’s placed.

Collins’ conclusion: there are indeed variations in how receptors in different parts of the tongue detect tastes.  But the variations are so small that they are insignificant.  Unfortunately, wine glass makers have chosen to promote the first part, prolonging the myth, and ignore the second part.

So by all means, go out and shop for the best wine glasses for your favorite wine, whether it’s Chardonnay or Cab.  The correct shape and size can do wonders to improve the flavors of your favorite wine.  But shop wisely: any claims a company makes involving your “tongue map” are simply ludicrous.