Riedel about it! Georg Riedel on flutes -v- table wine glasses & a fine fizz tasting at Hush Heath
On Monday, I participated in the first of three English wine tastings this week hosted by Georg Riedel, wine glass maker and self-proclaimed “taste maker.” The name of the game was to identify the glass best suited to Hush Heath Estate Balfour Brut Rosé from a choice of 16 (pictured below).
Riedel is the consummate salesman, showman even, and the event cleverly reinforced his basic premise that the shape and size – “the physics of glassware” – affects our reception and perception of wine on nose and palate. And how! Each glass, though poured from my very own allocated bottle, placed a different accent on the wine. So bottle variation didn’t even come into it.
Floral, vegetal, fruit, mineral or savoury notes variously came to the fore and ranged in intensity and length. Texturally, sometimes the bead was fine and persistent, at others times assertive, aggressive even or, as Riedel put it, “like a foam carpet.” As for acidity, my perceptions ranged from tart to crisp to soft.
The fruit was almost creamy in a couple of seemingly soft acid wines, most notably in glass 6, Riedel’s Vinum XL Pinot Noir (table wine) glass (pictured above, capturing Riedel), one of my favourite matches and equally popular with River Cafe Sommelier Emily O’Hare. However, it was eliminated in round one and only flute styles made it through to the final shortlist of five.
I took some comfort in the fact that the man himself pronounced his preferred match to be the Vinum XL Pinot Noir glass. According to Riedel, “the new trend in Champagne is not to use flutes.” Rather, he said, white wine glasses are all the rage “because they give more aromas, more complexity, more creamy texture.”
So is the Champagne flute dead? I don’t think so. Much as I liked the Vinum XL Pinot Noir glass, I also really liked the top two scorers (glasses 5 & 8) of which glass 8 (pictured above), the overall champ, was my top performer. The right flute will continue to delight classicists while the right table wine glass will appeal to those who like their fizz more vinous. Tasted alongside one another, as my notes for glasses 5,6 & 8 below bear witness, they make for a fascinating counter-point.
And focusing just on the fizz, I was much impressed with the as yet unreleased 2008 Hush Heath Estate Balfour Brut Rosé. Very happy to taste it 28 times in the interests of glassware experimentation! The immaculate estate and winery – the tasting venue impressed too. Scroll down for my only in England, Kent even, photographs.
Hush Heath Estate Balfour Brut Rosé (glass 6)
This, Riedel’s Vinum XL Pinot Noir table wine glass, has a lifted, gaseous, ozone nose. Fragrant and floral on the attack, an expressive, subtly rounded mid-palate shows lovely, lingering sweet red fruits as well as hedgerow minerality. A long, layered finish is excitingly vinous without losing all of the verve and nerve one associates with fizz.
Hush Heath Estate Balfour Brut Rosé (glass 5)
This relatively narrow diameter flute is floral with a gentle mousse and autolytic savoury edge to its delicate red cherry fruit. The finish is very long, tight and mineral.
Hush Heath Estate Balfour Brut Rosé (glass 8)
According to Riedel, this flute rim’s bigger diameter accounts for the wine’s bigger mid-palate impact. It’s a touch soapy on the nose but the palate is beautifully balanced. With a lively, broader mousse, the emphasis is very much on the red cherry and berry fruits and icing sugar dusted strawberry shortbread. Lively sherbety acidity makes for a long, persistent finish with impressive fruit intensity.