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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Its in the Glass
Charles W. Borden

It was a room full of skeptics could a wine glass really make that big a difference in the enjoyment of wine? This month, our expanded Expat wine tasting panel found out through a class at Vinum, a wine shop at Prechistenka 60. Vinum is owned by DP Trade, Russias Riedel glass importer. Austrian glassmaker Riedel has built a name for itself with its designer wine glasses, a unique design for each wine type e.g. a Bordeaux, Chardonnay, Brunello, etc. over 120 shapes for more than 30 types of wines.

Riedel is a 250 year-old family glassmaker, now in its tenth and eleventh generation, with ties that crossed through Russia after the second World War. Eighth generation Walter was taken prisoner in Czechoslovakia and the Riedel company became a state enterprise. Walter spent ten years in a Siberian camp, but was finally released to Austria in 1955. However, as the war ended, Walters son Claus had escaped by leaping from a train at the Brenner Pass in the Alps. He ended up in a village near Swarovski glass works and was taken in by them; the Swarovski family had learned the business from earlier generations of Riedels. Swarovski eventually bankrolled Claus to take over the bankrupt Tiroler Glashutte, todays Riedel factory. By 1961, Riedel fine wine glasses were introduced and by 1973 they were researching the relationship between the shape of a glass and the wine it contains. Worldwide, Riedel has a virtual monopoly in this market.

We brought a big group of wine tasters to Vinum, over 35, and Dmitri Pinski, DP Trades proprietor had to find extra tables. The program was a regular presentation that DP Trade hosts in a classroom under the Vinum shop. Each place setting consisted of a paper placemat with 5 circles, one for each of five glasses. The first circle, Dmitris Joker glass, was a typical wine glass used at most restaurants. The other circles, numbered 2 to 5, were set with Riedels Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Burgundy, and Bordeaux glasses respectively.

Dmitri selected four wines for the test, not the most expensive, but those he described as typical for the style. These were Montes Sauvignon Blanc Limited Selection 2005 (Chile 22 Euro), Masciarelli Marina Svetic Chardonnay (Italy 39 Euro), Domaine Leroy Burgundy 1998 (25 Euro), and Chateau Haut-Bages Monpelou 2000 (55 Euro).

The Sauvignon Blanc was poured, about 75ml for each of us in the appropriate Riedel glass. Dmitri gave our unruly group a difficult task do nothing until instructed. Finally, the first instruction came give the glass a swirl and sample the aroma of the wine. This wine provided a beautiful, full, fruity aroma, exactly what one would expect from a very good Sauvignon Blanc. Next we tasted, and the expectations from the aroma were fulfilled. Dmitri asked us to pour half of the remaining Sauvignon Blanc to the Joker and raise our Joker glasses for aroma and then taste. There was an audible stir in the group; the wonderful aroma we had experienced in the Riedel was completely missing, and the taste of the wine was flat. This was a revelation for most of us, and I was at the top of the list.

The placemat also had a diagram of the human tongue showing the location of sensory zones for tastes sweet, bitter, salty and so on. Dmitri described the means that each glass delivers the unique combination of tastes for each wine to the tongue. Each shape also retains or spreads the aromas to the nose as one experiences the wine.

We continued the trial, through the Chardonnay, Burgundy and Bordeaux, with the same general results. In every instance, the results were roughly the same the glass did make a difference, and by the end of the session most were convinced. Dmitri pointed out the obvious, as you see, a bad glass can spoil any good wine, and this Joker is what you will find in some of the most expensive restaurants. A customer orders a $300 wine and it is spoiled by the glass. He also added that, a bad wine will show worse in a good glass.

Dmitris wine shops, under the names Decanter, Magnum and Vinum, are a regular stop for preparation of the Passport wine tastings. They offer a good selection of wines, and not only those imported by DP Trade. DP Trade is also the importer of Australian PGA Pro Grant Dodds wines, which have become a favorite since our December wine tasting: ( article/372/). Dmitri also gave us some insights into the markup practices of restaurants. The clever vary the markup from 1.5 to 5 depending on price; others just markup 3 to 5 times. As you know, in general, the markups in Moscow are high.

There are three principal lines of Riedel glasses. The upper level or Sommelier is hand-blown glass at retail prices of around 2,900 rubles in Moscow. The second line is machine made Tirol crystal at about 900 rubles. The restaurant line is crystalline at about 400 rubles. I have not yet seen Riedels closest competitor, the German Spiegelau, in Moscow. But I have definitely added Riedel to my gift list unfortunately the Defender of the Motherland holiday has just past and my birthday and Christmas is far off, so I will have to spring myself for a couple of the Riedel Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay glasses.

Guest List

Arian Alikhani Lensmasters Stores
Charles Borden Meridian Capital
Robert Norton CMS Reality
Elena Serebryakova IMB Bank
Paul Obrien Starlight Dinners - Uley Restaurant
Marti Whelan Astera Reality
Andrew Sherlock Mercury Engines
Michael Dolgy Croissant Restaurant
Elsa Anikinow Publika Project PR
Pat Szymczak Eurasia Press Oil
Geoffrey Cox Astera Reality
Jonathan Russin Russin Vecchi Attorneys
Katerina Medvedeva Nestles
Alex Lebedeff Jacks restaurant
Patrick Gueguen Mansion Hotels Casinos
Todd Nalven Tablogix Logistics
Henri Guyard Venture Capital
Tony Wong Shering Plough Pharmaceuticals
Jeff Combs International Apparel, NCI telecom
Jamison Firestone Firestone Duncan Law Firm
Eric Boone Colliers International Reality
Timur Beslangurov Vista International Business Support
Boris Megrelishvili Megrelishvili & Partners attorneys
Linda Lippner United States Embassy
Rinat Khasyanov Chateau Le Grand Vostock winery
Yana Koulikova Young and Beautiful likes wine!
Michaela Steinhauer Jazz Singer famous
Jeff Kershaw Noble Gibbons Reality
Len Readle Triumph Construction & Development
Robert Carey Office Solutions
Kim Waddoup AIG International Reality Group
Nina Alikhani Tiffany Diamonds
Elena Zaloznykh Moscow Bank

Last night's demonstration by Dmitry Pinsky was truly illuminating, even for a wine veteran like me. Pinsky demonstrated the difference in aroma and taste that the proper wineglass gives to good wine. I confess that I had been ignorant of this factor in previous wine tastings, but I walked away from the Vinum shop convinced that the correct glass is an absolute requirement.
Jonathan Russin, Managing Partner, Russin & Vecchi

A remarkably well planned and executed presentation. The demonstration of how the type of glass can actually enhance the enjoyment of a particular wine was as amazing as it was, to me, unexpected.
Geoffrey Cox, Chairman, Astera

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