As part of our series of popular features we have briefly reprised for the summer, this light read has Georg Riedel, the head of the Riedel glassware dynasty, conducting ‘the strictest press lunch ever’, all in the aid of flow dynamics, glass rim size, Veritas glasses and decanters that appear to do everything!
An invite to the launch of new stemware in 2016 seemed innocent enough. But Georg Riedel, head of the world famous stemware company, has an individual and frankly hilarious way of handling the press.
“Think! Think!” the ever-so-slightly-agitated Georg Riedel implores us. “In what part of France did decanting start?” The answer is reasonably simple, it was in Champagne of course, but instead of answering him we are more transfixed by the large, inverted decanter he is holding in his hand, which is surely going to start pumping Cabernet Sauvignon all over the lunch table.
One journalist proffers an answer and is immediately rebuffed. “No! Think Think!” The journalist to my right leans forward, risking our host’s wrath and whispers “Wow, this is the strictest press lunch I have ever been to!” Not half.
The fact that host Georg Riedel, as in the top wine glass producer, looks a little like Christopher Plummer and is barking in a heavy Austrian accent only adds to the tension. Will we soon have to troop out in single file singing “So long, farewell?”
The point of the lunch is to prove that the glasses you drink wine out of really do matter, and the type of wine necessitates a different shaped glass. Of course they do. To hit the point home we do a hugely instructive tasting – using iced water, instead of wine. Some hardened wine journalists start trembling and look decidedly faint. What…. no wine?
Even though Georg must have done this lunch a million times before it is still fascinating. We first drank iced water out of three of his new varietal glasses – Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon – and sure enough different parts of the tongue are covered with water, depending upon flow dynamics and the size of the glass rim. This then translates to how the wines that the glasses are intended for are best tasted. The Pinot Noir glass, for example, accentuated the aromatics and worked much better with the front palate. The Cabernet Sauvignon glass allowed the iced water to wash over the tongue and onto the back palate.
Sitting around the table, as a group, we all preferred the Cabernet Sauvignon glass, subconsciously perhaps because it could easily hold an entire bottle of wine.
Luckily the wine did eventually come out and very good it was too. We drank Hamilton Russell 2014 Pinot Noir from the New World Pinot glass, differing from Riedel’s Burgundy glass on account of a flared lip, we drank Ernie Els 2013 Proprietor’s Syrah from the Syrah glass, and Jordan Cobbler’s Hill 2011 Bordeaux blend from the Cabernet Sauvignon glass which had no real difference to the old Bordeaux glass, as far as I could tell. Because we were dining at London’s High Timber, which is part owned by Jordan, all the wines were South African, the exception being the aperitif Billecart-Salmon NV, which was served from white wine glasses, “So that you can drink and socialise without making a burp” as Georg confided.
So back to that decanter, an Evechen, that traps the wine in an airlock and which Georg shook so vigorously for a good five minutes to make a point about aeration. The fact that the red wine stayed in the inverted decanter is why you are not already familiar with a clip of it on YouTube. And sure enough, true to Georg’s word, the decanter weaved its magic by allowing the wine to breathe wonderfully well, although next time I would warrant that he opens the bottle two hours ahead of time, rather than have to use the decanter like a food processor.