The perfect taste of wine is in the Riedel glass!

Guests attending the Radford Dale tasting at I my Laundry last night were astounded at the difference in the taste of a wine when it is evaluated in a standard restaurant glass, compared to a varietal specific glass made by Riedel.

Led by passionate wine-lover Tarryn Thomas, new Cape representative of Reciprocal Wines, owned by wine guru Michael Fridjhon and importers of wines and agents for Riedel glassware, she did tastings of the Radford Dale wines, first in what she called a ‘Joker’ glass one would typically find in a restaurant, one design for all white wines, and another for all red wines. Then we tasted the same wine in a Riedel varietal-specific wine glass, and the difference was unbelievable.  Even if the same wine is tasted in two different Riedel glass types, the aroma and taste of the wine differs, the varietal-specific glass bringing out the best in each of the wines we tasted, each introduced by charming and eloquent winemaker Jacques de Klerk:

*   The Chardonnay 2010 had a different texture in the Riedel glass, being a surprise even to Jacques, and he was instantly hooked, as the Riedel Chardonnay Montrachet glass brought out the best in his wooded wine, giving brioche and fruit at the back of the palate.  In the Riedel Chardonnay glass the taste was much softer and more velvety.

*   The Chenin Blanc 2012 was tasted in an unwooded white blend glass, and once again tasted far better in the Riedel-varietal glass, even compared to tasting it in a Riedel Chardonnay glass, the citrus and intense fruit notes coming to the fore best. This is their flagship wine, being 100% barrel fermented and matured.

*   The Pinot Noir 2012 was said to be ‘Wimbledon’, all strawberries and cream, as well as blackberries.  When tasted in the ‘Joker’ glass, the wine had almost no aroma and the tannins were upfront, and could even make a wine taste corked, compared to drinking it in a Riedel Pinot Noir glass.  The Radford Dale Pinot Noir grapes come from Elgin, which Jacques said is the leading terroir for Pinot Noir, with amazing soil types, high altitude, and true winter dormancy. He described this grape variety as being ‘heart breaking’, difficult to make, but getting better in South Africa. The grapes are harvested early, and he does not go ‘for a raspberry Kool- Aid style’, he explained descriptively, it having ‘powdery type tannins’, creating a ‘satin feel, almost lace like’.

*   Black Rock 2009 is a Rhone blend of 71% Shiraz, 13% Carignan, 12% Grenache, 3% Mourvedre, and 1% Viognier, and was described as having a new car smell and spice aroma. It is ‘big, bold, and mouthwateringly good” in the Riedel Shiraz glass, said Jacques. The Syrah grapes come from the Perdeberg in the Swartland, a region with ancient granite soils, the vines never being irrigated.

*   The Shiraz 2009 had been decanted in the unusually shaped Escargot decanter, as ‘wine and air are best friends’, especially for younger wines, ‘bringing the flavours and textures out of them‘, Jacques said.  The grapes come from17 year old trellised vines in the Helderberg, which has ‘koffieklip’, pebbles in the shape of coffee beans.  The grapes are unirrigated, the clay soil giving the wines a water reserve. The wine has paprika, clove, and violet aromas. It is low in sulphur.

*   The Pinotage 2012 is named after Dr Frrankenstein, a humorous ode to the founder of the grape variety, being Dr Abraham Perold, and because Pinotage has been seen to be a monster by some who do not like the varietal.  Jacques did say that if you treat it well as a winemaker, it gets better.  Riedel does not have a Pinotage tasting glass, and encouraged the producers to club together for Riedel to make a Pinotage tasting glass mould.

*   A vine-dried unfiltered dessert wine, fermented in old barrels for one year, and not made from bortrytised grapes, was a sweet end to an interesting tasting. This wine is mainly produced for own use.

Riedel’s new head Maximilian Riedel says that ‘Riedel turns every sip into a celebration‘.  Tarryn explained that Riedel has different glass ranges, the Vinum restaurant range being machine made and costing about R70 per glass.  The Sommelier range is handblown, and costs about R800 per glass.  Riedel is a family owned eleventh generation company run for the past 250 years.  The glass design is based on stimulating the senses, including sight, the lead crystal letting in more light; the sound, when the glasses are clinked; the weight is perfect to get it to one’s mouth, and does not have a rim; and its taste, the design directing the wine perfectly to the palate.  Riedel was the first glass manufacturer to create glasses made from Austrian crystal on the basis of ‘the content dictates the shape’. The tongue has different ‘taste zones‘, sweet upfront, followed by salt, acid, and bitterness right at the back. The shape of the varietal-specific glasses directs the wine to the taste zone it is intended for.

Riedel would like top restaurants and wine estates to stock their glasses, to bring out the best in their wines. Riedel is used at Creation and Hamilton Russell in Hermanus, Delaire Graff, La Motte, Rust en Vrede, Waterkloof, Reuben’s Franschhoek, and the Kove restaurant group, including Pepenero, Paranga, Zenzero and Bungalow. Tarryn is willing to do tastings of South African wine varietals in Cape Town, and is a passionate champion for our local wines, having worked with Fridjhon for the past eight years.

Sales and Marketing Manager Angela Jordaan explained that The Winery of Good Hope was established by Alex Dale, British born but who grew up in Burgundy, and winemaker Ben Radford, in conjunction with Edouard Labeye, who lives in the Rhone valley, and is the master blender, coming to the wine estate four times a year.  Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Shiraz are the three lead varietals of the company, which has four brands: Radford Dale, The Winery of Good Hope (Bush Vine Pinotage, Oceanside Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, Mountainside Shiraz, Reserve Pinot Noir, Bush Vine Chenin Blanc, and Unoaked Chardonnay), Land of Hope (an empowerment project which receives 50% of the proceeds in the Land of Hope Trust, to fund the education of the children and relatives of their farm workers, with a Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Reserve Chenin Blanc), and Vinum Africa (Cabernet Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc). All the wines of the company have screw caps, making them age better, giving the wines a better colour, and holding their structure better, Angela said. About three quarters of the wine is exported to eleven countries.  The local market is important, but tough to crack, given the oversupply of wines in general.  She emphasised that the passion of the company is to make quality wines.

The difference in taste of the Radford Dale wines in different glasses, and the enhanced taste of each wine in the appropriate Riedel varietal glass was an eye-opener to each of the guests at the tasting!

Riedel: The Wine Glass Company, The Reciprocal Wine Trading Company.  Tel 073 304 7201. Twitter: @ReciprocalWine

Radford Dale, The Winery of Good Hope, Stellenbosch.  Tel (021) 855-5528. Twitter: @AngJordie Tasting by appointment only.

my Laundry, 59 Buitengracht Street, Cape Town. Tel 084 660 0777 (Clayton)/083 6020291 (Mico) Twitter:@ILovemyLaundry,  Monday – Sunday.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: Twitter: @WhaleCottage

23 replies on “The perfect taste of wine is in the Riedel glass!”

  1. darren says:

    Hi Chris

    Agree that wine does taste different depending on the size of the glass you use, this is step one of wine tasting and is well known.

    The inference that wine tastes better in a bordeaux riedel glass v a standard similar size glass is questionable.

    I have some Riedel bordeaux glasses which cost 250 rand each, yes 250 rand each and the wine doesnt taste different than when i drink it out of my 9 rand czech glasses, its all about marketing…

    as a famous drink ad says “reasuringly expensive”

  2. Thanks for your feedback Darren from Hout Bay.

    May I pass your e-mail address on to Tarryn, the Riedel representative, so that she can invite you to their next tasting? The other guests at the tasting included representatives of The Pot Luck Club, Opulent Living, Grande Roche, and Woolworths, and with the winemaker Jacques de Klerk they were all astounded at the difference.


  3. Paul says:

    Interesting post. I am a bit of a skeptic but wasn’t there to compare the wines in the different glasses. Out of interest, the ‘taste zones’ of the tongue theory has been disproved. Have a look at this article

  4. Thank you Paul.

    I will ask the Riedel representative Tarryn to comment on the article.

    May I pass on your e-mail address to Tarryn, to invite you to a next tasting?


  5. Chris Rebok says:

    Even if you don’t taste a difference, it’s a question of style to have nice wine glasses no matter if it is a Zalto, Riedel or Eisch glass. Great wines deserve great glasses. CHEERS!

  6. Nigel says:

    Having done the Riedel experiment many times over the past 30 years all I can add is that it works.

    We will in fact be showcasing that this evening to our top 15 clients with a vertical tasting of 8 Vintages of HRV Pinot Noir and Riedel Glasses, Got to say my job sucks some times….

  7. Nick Jones says:

    Having attended a Creation wine tasting in Knysna using ordinary glasses, followed a week later by a long lunchtime tasting at Creation itself, using the Riedel glasses, I detected absolutely no difference whatsoever.

    At home here in the UK I drink out of the finest UK crystal glassware because of their beautiful design & shape. However, they make no difference to the taste of the wine. Sorry Chris.

  8. What interesting feedback Nigel, Nick and Chris.

    I am waiting for Tarryn to assist me in responding to this diverse response spectrum.


  9. Thank you Paul. I will pass your details on to Tarryn.


  10. Thank you for your comments.
    I completely understand why you may be skeptical about this concept, because the proof is really in the experience.
    I would love to invite you to a Riedel Glassware tasting of this kind, in order for me to demonstrate the amazing concept that is Varietal Specific glassware.
    I can even encourage you to bring a glass of your choice to use as a comparison.

    My email address is:
    Please send me your details & I will be delighted to invite you to put Riedel glassware to the test.

    Anthony Hamilton Russell quoted in a tasting last night that he too was a skeptic until proven wrong. Anthony is now an ambassador for Riedel, and trusts the glassware to emphasise the best that his wine has to offer.

  11. Thanks for your feedback Tarryn, and extending the invitation to attend your tastings.


  12. Pieter says:

    More tosh. Smoke and mirrors. Call it the Placebo effect.Believe or don’t.

    In 2004, Gourmet Magazine reported that “Studies at major research centers in Europe and the U.S. suggest that Riedel’s claims are, scientifically, nonsense.” The article states further evidence from Yale researcher Linda Bartoshuk, saying that the idea of the “tongue map,” claimed by Riedel to be an important part of their research, does not exist. According to Bartoshuk, “Your brain doesn’t care where taste is coming from in your mouth … And researchers have known this for thirty years.
    See also Gourmet Magazine article
    Shattered Myths By Daniel Zwerdling, Gourmet Magazine, August 2004

  13. Dear Pieter

    I hope you have read the other comments on this topic? Would you like to attend a Riedel tasting in Cape Town? If so, please e-mail me at, so that I can pass your details on to Tarryn.


  14. Nick Jones says:

    However, I’ll gladly attend a tasting when I’m in South Africa next March. Email is on the way Tarryn.

    On a different subject, BA is increasing its LHR-JNB service from 2 to 3 per day. Effective April 2014.

  15. Super Nick.

    Good news about the BA flights – there is no business in Cape Town for them, so maybe they are switching one of their Cape Town flights to the Johannesburg route?


  16. Jhandre Bredenkamp says:

    I have used only Riedel glasses at home for the last 5 years and I swear by them! It is like a death in the family when we lose one to breakage! It might only be a mental thing but I do believe there is a difference. I only have Bordeaux and Cabernet glasses so everything goes into those, so I would like to attend a riedel tasting when it comes to Cape Town again!

  17. Thank you for sharing your experience Jhandre.

    I am sure that Riedel will be happy to read your endorsement.


  18. Lolla says:

    I swear by Riedel. I even travel with my own Riedel tasting glass. A glass can make or break a wine! Lovely to see that you are attending so many wine related events. A clear sign that the luv-luv club does not have a very big influence!! At least you do not charge for your tweets!

  19. Ha ha Lolla!

    Yes, our ‘friend’ Michael Olivier is not going out much.

    You must be a real wine fundi, to be travelling with your Riedel glass (es). I heard some of those attending the Radford Dale tasting say that they would do so in future too, being so impressed with the enhanced taste.


  20. Pieter says:

    Did Riedel hand out gift samples of their glasses to take home at the Radford Dale Tasting or any other tasting?

  21. No Pieter, no wine or Riedel glass gifts were given to attendees, only a Riedel booklet.

    We attended by invitation.


  22. Chris Rebok says:

    If you are interested in a tasting with RIEDEL stemware you can contact Carolyn Martin (Creation Wines, they do special tastings with RIEDEL glasses and they make great wines. Recently I was invited to such a tasting and it was really amazing!!! For more information about this tasting read my article

  23. Thank you for sharing your write-up Chris.

    You will have read that we came to the same conclusion at our tasting with Riedel representative Tarryn at I Love My Laundry, a little closer for Cape Town wine lovers. Creation does not do the Riedel vs Joker tasting as Tarryn did.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.