F inding the right gift for the wine drinker in your life is one of the easiest things on your holiday to-do list, right?
After all, you just need to find a good bottle of wine, and your favorite wine shop will be happy to help with that. That’s a good solution, and any wine drinker would be happy to receive a bottle of wine as a gift.
But if you want to step up your game a little and try something different, buy a couple of nice glasses. You will be improving your friend’s drinking experience for years to come.
I am not a wine snob. I like all kinds of wine and will drink it out of anything, even plastic cups. But there is no denying wine tastes better in a proper glass.
That was driven home to me several years ago when my friend Clint and I were comparing several pinot noirs. We had three or four different wines and we tasted them side by side.
Clint and I usually have similar tastes when it comes to red wine, but this time we didn’t agree on a single wine. So I took a sip from his glass, and the wine was much better. We noticed that he was drinking from nice glasses designed for pinot noir and I was drinking out of generic red wine glasses.
We switched glasses, and the rating we gave the wines switched, too. There was no doubt each pinot tasted better out of a pinot glass.
Since then I’ve had similar experiences with glasses that proved to me the glass matters when you’re drinking wine.

Riedel is one of the premiere producers of wine glasses in the world. Over the years I have bought many of their glasses and have a couple dozen of their all-purpose glasses that I use for wine tastings. So when they asked if I would like to try a glass from their new Performance series, I jumped at the chance.
They sent me two riesling glasses to try and then I sent them back. I don’t drink that much riesling, even though I love it, so I was glad Riedel sent the riesling glasses instead of something else. I was able to broaden my horizons a little, and I didn’t have a lot of preset notions while sipping the wine.
For our experiment I opened a bottle of riesling made in Oregon. Specifically it was a 2017 Failla from the Hopewell Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills region ($22). I’m fascinated by the Failla wines because they’re owned by Ehren Jordan and his wife.
Jordan was the winemaker for Larry Turley for 18 years, turning out one great, powerful zinfandel after another. Like many great winemakers Jordan made his own wine in his spare time and eventually left Turley for his own Failla winery.
The company is based in Napa Valley along the Silverado Trial where they produce wonderfully nuanced pinot noir, syrah and chardonnay from Napa and the Sonoma Coast. For the past several years they have also been making wine in Oregon, offering pinot noir, riesling, chardonnay and grüner veltliner. I have never had a wine from Turley or from Failla that I didn’t like.
Even though I believed going into our test that the wine glass would make a difference in how the wine tasted, I couldn’t believe how great a difference the glass made. I poured the wine into the Riedel glasses first and the wine was outstanding, full of lively fruit flavors and crisp acidity.

We had the wine with fried shrimp, long grain and wild rice and a tossed salad. Riesling is a great food wine, so it was no surprise that the wine brought out flavor in the shrimp. With each sip the wine seemed to get better. Even though this riesling is a still wine, there was a slight sensation of effervescence in our mouths.
When I poured some wine in another generic white glass, the effervescence was gone. So, too, was much of the lively fruit flavor. I still loved the wine, but it was nowhere near as good as it tasted in the Riedel glass.
This is a dry riesling, with a floral nose, and flavors of peach and honeysuckle. The wine is primarily available from the winery and online. I’m not aware of any local stores carrying Failla wines. They are worth tracking down.
After dinner I enjoyed just sipping this wine without food (from the Riedel glass).
The main difference I found between the two glasses was the Riedel glass produced a more rounded and complex wine, with finer taste sensations. The same wine in a generic glass seemed flat by comparison, with many of the flavors running together.
The glasses Riedel sent me are part of their new Performance Series ($59/set of two). They feature slim stems and wide bases. The line offers glasses for riesling, chardonnay, champagne, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and the classic spirits glass.
Released earlier this year each performance glass is optically blown, leaving nearly imperceptible ridging in the glass, which adds to the eye appeal.  Besides the aesthetics, these ridges are specially crafted to aid the wine’s agitation and movement, aerating it faster within the glass.
That’s one of the major things you want a wine glass to do. That’s why wine drinkers swirl the wine in the glass to give it greater exposure to air. People don’t do that just to look cool. It actually improves the taste of the wine. That’s also why you want a fairly large bowl in the glass.
When you let the wine breathe the structure of the wine is transformed. Tannins break down and the aroma gets better. These glasses also are thin and lightweight while still being sturdy. I hate it when I order a nice bottle of wine in a restaurant and they bring me heavy, clunky glasses. If you spend a few extra dollars for nice glasses, the whole experience improves.

One other nice thing about these glasses: When you touch glasses to make a toast they have the nicest sound, almost like a small gong sounding.
You won’t want a separate glass for each varietal, but if you like to drink a specific type of wine get a couple of glasses for that varietal. A good glass can make a good wine better and a bad glass will diminish the enjoyment of a great wine.
If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at dennis@bottlereport.com

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