Finding the ‘perfect’ English sparkling wine glass
By Andrew Catchpole
Published: January 30, 2023
Designing the best glass with which to serve a particular style of wine has long been the mission of the Riedel family, who have built a glassblowing empire from the exact dimensions of the more expensive beverage containers. And having a custom-made vessel to best express your wine probably signals that you’ve ‘arrived’, confirming a seat at the top table. An English sparkling wine position took a step closer to last week.
The event was an English Sparkling Wine Sensory Workshop, led by Maximillian Riedel at Ridgeview Wine Estate, which brought together Sussex winemakers and their wines, following on from similar tastings in Kent and Hampshire.
“The quest is to find the perfect sparkling wine glass,” said Riedel, introducing a flight of 12 different glasses, including the obvious lame duck of a traditionally shaped flute, all filled with the first of four blind-tasted Sussex sparkling wines .
The tasting panel, which included prominent Sussex winemakers, plus independent taste buds such as independent trader Henry Butler and Harpers’ own editor, were tasked with voting – by show of hands – the three least successful glasses in the flight, before the same exercise be repeated. with the remaining nine and then six glasses, but each flight with a different (blind) sparkling wine. No conference was allowed.
Riedel explained: “This is the way we develop new glasses, never on a computer … the glass can be a speaker, it’s your stage.”
It was a fascinating exercise, which revealed quite how much the shape of the glass affects perception of everything about the wine, from mousse and aroma to texture, weight and length, by way of accentuation or otherwise of the acidity and even tannins.
However, what was most eye-opening is that the three tulip-shaped, wide-bulb glasses that made it through to the final round were the same three chosen by the panels in not only Kent and Hampshire, but also at a carbon copy. event in Tasmania, plus one that Riedel organized for Dom Perignon in Champagne.
Faced with a final show of hands for a personal favorite among the final three glasses, the numbers were crunched and the top glass was revealed to be a Veloce Riesling glass, with Riedel’s benchmark Champagne glass trailing some distance behind. came (although, interestingly, the favorite of Tasmanian sparkling winemakers). A second Riesling glass came in third, leaving its competitor behind.
Moreover, the votes produced a fairly consistent result throughout, regardless of which English sparkling wine was in the glass – later revealed as Ridgeview Cavendish NV, Bolney Classic Cuvée NV, Rathfinny Classic Cuvée 2018 and then Oxney Organic NV.
Riedel explained that this was not a surprise as the Riesling glass is ideally shaped to showcase wines with low tannins and high acidity, while concentrating delicate aromas and the more ‘winey’ nature (in these cases) of the palate revealed. From this point a dedicated English sparkling wine glass can now be formed.
For Sussex – and English sparkling wine makers more generally – it was an important event, according to Ridgeview’s host Mardi Roberts. She suggested, “it sends another important message that English sparkling wine has arrived”.
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