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In downtown Los Angeles, the Learn About Wine team hosted Georg Riedel—one member, in a long line (11 generations deep) of the Riedel Glassware Empire—in their swanky loft. Mr. Riedel was on hand to give an interactive presentation that would champion his family’s legendary glassware and stress the importance of proper glassware usage, all the while actively recruiting new customers.  Would the dapper Austrian inveigle me?

As I took my seat, a placemat was laid before me with three glasses from the signature Sommelier’s set, a plastic “beaker” and a traditional wine glass. Each glass was labeled and would be used in a battery of experiments. The Sommelier glassware contained Joseph Phelps’s highly acclaimed wines: a pinot noir, chardonnay and Insignia—a blend of Bordeaux varietals, mostly cabernet sauvignon  (95%) and the remainder, petit verdot. The Burgundy glass was visually stunning; its unique and massive bowl could house an impressive volume of wine (more than a bottle’s worth).

The presentation began with a brief and succinct history of the Riedel family. Once a background was sufficiently painted, the talk quickly homed in on the glassware that was before us. “Precision instruments.” The accolades and achievements garnered by the immaculate stemware were shared with us, it was impressive, to say the least. The idea behind changing the glassware to accommodate tannins or to show off bright acidity all through the shape of the glass was enthralling. This we were told was purely physics.

If we (the large group of attendees) were not sold by the amount of knowledge Mr. Riedel had to offer (like learning the proper way to drink and smell from a glass), than we were swayed—collectively—by the experiments, tasting firsthand how a glass of wine could change by the vehicle that delivers it to your palate.  The Montrachet glass was cited as the “enemy of all red wine,” a glass that would limit the aromatics by highlighting other qualities and stripping your palate of flush ripe fruit and replacing it with acid you would not know is present, if you served that same glass of wine with the proper vessel.

Throughout the course of the night, we sipped reds and whites and learned which varietals were acceptable to drink in the glasses. Our presenteur emphasized the correct selection of glassware to accompany one’s wine. He relayed a major “booboo” of his customers was drinking strictly out of the Bordeaux glass; we began to see/taste the truth of his words. He also exhibited some utterly gorgeous decanters, stressing their role and proffering tips on cleaning these decadent glass objects.

The wine was great, Insignia—was big, too big for my taste—but, the pinot noir displayed beautiful structure, soft tannins, ripe fruit and coated my palate flush thanks to the vessel. The wines were an added treat to a stellar night’s lineup that featured an intimate setting, some personal anecdotes and a significant figure in the wine world. After the class, I felt confident that these glasses were a necessary flavor enhancer and I look forward to using the set that I went home with (another bonus of attending the class) to bring out the most of my cellar selections.

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