Clive Platman, my friend and fellow wine geek, I’m sure he won’t mind me calling him that, finds, like the rest of us, he has time on his hands. Rather than simply hitting the bottle, he has hit the bottle under the guise of stemware research. As a member of one of the monthly wine groups he organises in Birmingham, I can attest to the fact that this would have been done thoroughly, scientifically and with careful expertise. Clive claims he has in the region of 25 different glass profiles to choose from, some of which probably needed a good dusting off through lack of use and many of which are from Riedel who make many various shaped glasses to suit different grape varieties. You may wonder why. The way the glass is shaped influences how the aromas reach your nose and the flavours hit your tongue. If you are in doubt, have a go yourself. As Clive says, ‘the advantage of this type of tasting is that you only need to open one bottle’ and if you weren’t convinced that the glass makes a huge difference to how a wine tastes before, you will by the time you’ve finished.
So here is Clive’s research for the perfect glass (in his cupboard) for the Xinomavro grape which, as far as I know, Riedel is yet to design the perfect glass shape. I don’t know what’s keeping them – perhaps this will help.
Thymiopoulos “Earth & Sky” Xinomavro 2015, DO Naoussa abv 13.5%
A native Grecian red varietal, and the name translates as “acid black”.
Medium bodied bright garnet red.
Cherry and raspberry fruit
Fruit: Sour cherry, but sweet and ripe
A bitter note developed on the mid-palate, persisting through to the finish.
- Riedel Event tasting glass
A vast improvement on an ISO; curved sides with a narrowing upright profile. Some red fruit but rather closed. Quite firm, with pronounced acidity and tannin, developing a pleasing velvety texture. Notes of brett in background, moderate to medium fruit. (3/5)
- Beaujolais/Chardonnay glass (probably “Natalie”)
Glass is bulbous and round. Fruit and bouquet hardly discernible. Broadens texture and emphasises tannin, but finish is pleasing. (2/5)
- Riedel Chianti/Sauvignon Blanc
No bouquet nor fruit. Emphasises tannin and only salvation is a pleasing chocolate finish. A poor match. (1/5)
- Dartington Bordeaux
Wider base, narrowing towards aperture and straight-sided. Much better demonstration of the cherry fruit, better balance and a more complete wine. (3/5)
- Leclerc Bordeaux Connoisseur
More curved with wider base than the top. No bouquet, no fruit, and very bitter. Awful. (0/5)
- Riedel Extreme Riesling (SKU441/15)
Wider base, but slightly curved, leading to narrower aperture. Fresh, sweet ripe fruit and firm tannins. Good balance and impressive length. A good match. (4/5)
- Riedel Extreme Shiraz (SKU 4441/32)
Large glass with wide base, narrowing to aperture, but straight sided. Sweet cherry fruit, with pleasing tannins. Excellent balance and good length. Appears to emphasis the freshness and sweetness of fruit, but there is a slightly bitter note. (4/5)
- Riedel Extreme Burgundy
Large glass, angular and wide, narrowing more sharply at aperture. Really emphasises the sweetness of fruit and softens down the tannin but it’s so bitter it’s almost undrinkable. (1/5)
I then eliminated the 4 worst scores and re-tasted the 4 best matches:
Glass 1: Riedel Event tasting glass
Fresh, faint red fruit. Rather harsh and rustic (2/5)
Glass 4: Dartington Bordeaux
Fresh, but bitter (1/5)
Glass 6: Riedel Extreme Riesling
No bouquet, but delicious cherry and raspberry fruit. Tannins evident and nicely balanced with a soft, sweet fruit finish. (4/5)
Glass 7: Riedel Extreme Shiraz
Sweet fruit, firm tannins and a very pleasing finish. Fresh and lovely. The bitter note is apparent, but neither unpleasant nor distracting. Seems to bring together all the various components into harmony. (4.5/5)
For those not familiar with Xinomavro, it shares various characteristics with better known varietals such as Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir. The sour cherry fruit was reminiscent of a Sangiovese, but the tannins not as rasping. Surprisingly, it was extremely averse to the Riedel Chianti, which many of us use as our standard tasting glass.
Maybe there’s a touch of tar, certainly the structure is redolent of Barolo and the cherry fruit reminds me of a New World Pinot Noir or, better still, an Etna Rosso. Although it shared these similarities, Xinomavro reacted badly to a glass with a gradual curve, so the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir glass profiles were pretty disastrous, emphasising fruit, playing down tannins, but boosting bitterness. Conversely, the Bordeaux style brought out the tannin and rusticity, subduing the fruit element.
Believe it or not, the Riedel Extreme Riesling (SKU 4441/15) was originally marketed as the Extreme Sauvignon Blanc, but has since swapped allegiance. I subsequently discovered that it was also sold as a “Syrah” when I purchased a replacement in a John Lewis sale. It is a surprisingly good and versatile red wine glass, and it certainly does work well with both Syrah and Xinomavro.
My best match, however, was the Riedel Extreme Shiraz (SKU 4441/32) which, overall, gave the best rendition of the various characteristics of the grape. From the tasting results though, Xinomavro does tend to prefer the glass profile with the most suitable characteristics for Shiraz or Syrah.
Text and Photos by Clive Platman, former wine writer for The Birmingham Post 21/04/2020