Société Mondiale du Vin: Bacchus Wine Academy - Riedel Wine Glass Seminar:  The Glass Matters

With Sean Petrie, Riedel USA Midwest Regional Manager

Sunday, December 07, 2014 –

3:00 - 7:00 pm

Confrérie de la Chaîne des RôtisseursSociete Mondial du Vin

Emilio’s Tapas Sol y Nieve
215 East Ohio Street
Chicago, Illinois


Wine Workshop 102: The Glass Matters


On December 7, 2014, 45 members and guests of the Chicago Société Mondiale du Vin learned that they had been drinking Chardonnay from the wrong glass – and for many it was the reason they had become “ABC” (anything-but-Chardonnay) drinkers. They were participating in Wine Workshop 102: The Glass Matters, the second in a series of workshops on the basics of enjoying wine, which runs throughout the 2014-15 season. The event took place at Emilio’s Tapas Sol y Nieve, helmed by Chef Emilio Gervilla, who opened Chicago’s first tapas bar back in 1988.

Whereas Wine Workshop 101: An Introduction to Wine had focused on the wine in the glass, this workshop examined the glass itself. Sean Petrie, USA Midwest Regional Manager for the Riedel (rhymes with “needle”) Wine Glass Company, led an informative, interactive, and often irreverent exploration of how the size, shape, thickness and even material of the wine glass affect the enjoyment and appreciation of the wine in the glass.

“The size and the shape of the bowl are going to help dictate how the wine tastes and is perceived,” began Mr. Petrie. “It’s going to help balance out the smells of the wine and how the wine tastes.”

Each attendee received four glasses from Riedel’s Vinum line to use during the workshop and to take home: Oaked Chardonnay (Montrachet), Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir (Burgundy red), and Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot (Bordeaux). The workshop also made use of a stemless, non-lead crystal “joker glass” and even a red, plastic Solo® cup. Mr. Petrie led participants to pour wine from one vessel to another, comparing the information they received from their senses along the way.

“I hated Chardonnay, and the reason is that I was always drinking it out of the wrong glass,” admitted Mr. Petrie. Pointing to the Sauvignon Blanc glass, with its classic “white wine glass” shape, Mr. Petrie said, “A lot of times when you go to a restaurant and you order any kind of white wine, this is the kind of glass you’ll get. This is a big reason that people don’t like Chardonnays – it’s that they’re drinking them out of the wrong glass.”

The ideal glass for an oaked Chardonnay is one with the larger, shorter, more horizontal bowl associated with a traditional red wine glass, according to Mr. Petrie. After swirling the wine in the Oaked Chardonnay glass and detecting the creamy, smooth scents of vanilla and “buttered popcorn,” participants were directed to pour the wine into the joker glass. The creaminess instantly disappeared, replaced by the burn of alcohol on the nose. Pouring from the joker glass into the Sauvignon Blanc glass left only citrus notes due to the over-concentration of acidity by the longer, taller bowl and the narrower opening of the glass. In the Solo cup, the wine tasted flat and lifeless. It was a relief when Mr. Petrie instructed participants to pour the Chardonnay back into the Oaked Chardonnay glass and not only to smell the wine, but to taste it. “Notice where it hits your palate,” said Mr. Petrie. “The wide opening delivers the wine toward the middle and the back of the tongue. That’s where your salt taste buds are. You smell oak and butter. Butter and salt go hand-in-hand.”

“This is amazing!” exclaimed Dame Margaret Dickerson. “This is like a revelation to me.”

It is perhaps fortunate that Chef Emilio did not enter the room during the next lesson, or he would have found it full of people holding their noses. “Eighty percent of what you taste comes from your nose,” asserted Mr. Petrie. To demonstrate his point, he asked participants to hold their noses while sipping from the Sauvignon Blanc glass. “Does it taste like it did in the plastic cup?” he asked, receiving nods of agreement. “Take the smell away – you take away the taste.”

Next, Mr. Petrie showed how the wrong glass can take away the taste and smell all by itself. Moving on to the Pinot Noir glass, he described four distinct layers of scent within the glass, from alcohol (closest to the wine) to green (stems, seeds, leaves) to oak (barrel, wood) to floral (farthest from the wine). He then instructed students to pour the wine into the Oaked Chardonnay glass, which has the same bowl as the Pinot Noir glass, but is cut about a half an inch shorter. Despite being the size and shape of a classic red wine glass, the glass’s shorter bowl eliminates the floral layer. “Now the wine is unbalanced,” suggested Mr. Petrie. “You’re getting the three worst characteristics of red wine without the balancing characteristics of a Pinot Noir, which is sweet, ripe, red fruit.”

After closing his presentation with a “repair sip” out of the Pinot Noir glass, Mr. Petrie underscored his point about the Oaked Chardonnay glass: “Never again will you put red wine in a glass that looks like this. If you go to a restaurant and they serve you red wine in a glass that looks like this, send it back. This glass is a red wine killer.

Throughout his presentation, Mr. Petrie answered common questions from wine enthusiasts – occasionally adding an irreverent twist of his own:

  • Why swirl wine?
    “To aerate the wine. To volatize the esters. My favorite reason to swirl wine? To look cool. If you can properly swirl wine, people are going to say ‘Wow, that guy must know about wine!’”

  • How much should one expect to pay for a good wine glass?
    “I always tell people that whatever they’re going to spend on a bottle of wine is what they should spend on the ‘tool’ they’re going to use to drink the wine.”

  • What is the ideal glass for drinking champagne?
    “The Burgundy Grand Cru glass, which flares out a little bit, which is why some people call it the ‘tulip glass.’ I love it. I will never drink champagne out of anything but this glass. I had champagne flutes – I sold them at a garage sale for a quarter apiece.”

  • Why is lead crystal important in a wine glass?
    “Lead is a sharp, jagged-edged metal. So when you swirl it, those edges grab onto the wine molecules and help them coat the inside of the glass, which turns the glass into a ‘microphone’ for the wine.”

  • What about spirit decanters?
    “The amount of leeching into wine [from a wine glass] is almost nothing. However, if you have a lead-crystal decanter for spirits, I don’t recommend putting an alcohol into a lead decanter. We make [Riedel spirit decanters] all non-lead.”

  • What is the best way to clean wine glasses?
    “The best way to clean your glasses is to put them in your dishwasher. Don’t use soap – the hot water is going to sanitize them. Wash your glasses by themselves, give them some moving space, and don’t stack them next to each other.”

  • What is the best way to store wine glasses?
    “If you don’t have a rack, store your glasses right side up in your kitchen cabinets. Most shelves are varnished or painted, and [if you store them with the bowl down] the glasses are going to smell like that.”

  • Does the glass matter when tasting at a winery?
    “If you ever go to a winery and they hand you a plastic cup – run!”

  • Why decant wine?
    “Aeration. To get the sediment out. My favorite reason to decant? To look cool.

Prior to the workshop, attendees mingled over cava and passed tapas and afterwards shared a feast of family-style cold and warm tapas. The cold offerings included tortilla Española (Spanish-style omelet), jamón Serrano, tomate y queso con albahaca and Chef Emilio’s famous patatas con alioli (garlic potato salad). For warm tapas, guests enjoyed pinchos de solomillo a la pimiento, queso de cabra al horno and setas salvajes amontillado. The highlight of the meal came with the entrance of Chef Emilio and two servers carrying what appeared to be the world’s largest paella pan. The pungent scent of saffron permeated the room as Chef Emilio served heaping plates of the bright yellow, caramelized rice dish. Participants had been encouraged to bring wine to share, and the conversation and libations flowed freely as members and guests exchanged reactions to the workshop and poured their favorite wines – being careful to use the right glass, of course!


Course Description:  This is the next level to our last workshop that focused on the basics of wine tasting and the different grape varietals.  After exploring the issue of “what is in the glass?” we will now ask and answer the question “what glass should this wine be served in . . . and, does it really matter?

Back in the 1950s, Professor Claus J. Riedel boldly posited the concept that the bouquet, taste, balance and finish of wines are affected by the shape, volume and thickness of the glass from which they are consumed.  Hitherto, conventional stemware had used a single basic bowl shape for all wine types with only the size varying depending on use.  Together with his son George, Professor Claus advocated that to “fully appreciate the personality of different grape varieties and the subtle character of wines, it is essential to have an appropriately fine tuned glass shape.”  We will put this notion to trial!
Visiting Lecturer:  Riedel USA Midwest Regional Manager, Mr. Sean Petrie, will be on hand to guide us through the concept of “how the content commands the shape.” He will demonstrate the relationship between the shape of the glass and our perception and enjoyment of wines.  We will taste a good selection of wines to discover if the size and shape of the glass really do matter.

Course Materials.  Each participant will receive a Reidel Vinum Series Tasting Set consisting of 4 glasses specially designed for: Bordeaux/Cabernet Sauvignon, Burgundy/Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling. The glassware set will be for the participants to take home after the event, a $100+ retail value. In addition, Mr. Petrie is generously donating a Riedel Coca-Cola glass for each attendee. 

Class Size, Tuition Fee, Registration Deadline:  Strictly limited to 40 participants, on a first come, first served basis with preference to Mondiale members.  Course fee is $145.00 per person inclusive of all course materials and dinner.  Please register no later than Sunday, November 30th.  We will immediately advise you of a waitlist situation.

Tapas Reception & BYOB Dinner.  Prior to the workshop, we will enjoy a reception with cava and passed tapas.  After the tasting seminar, we will have a dinner of tapas and paella.  We encourage you to bring a bottle to enjoy with your Spanish treat and share with your friends.

Join us for this educational and entertaining experience.  You will remember this for years to come!

In vino veritas,

Mon Roldan