Rise Up Against the Tyranny of the Stem!

For years now we’ve been dealing with the hegemony of Riedel stemware in the market. In general it has been a good idea, because it has made people more aware of subtle details. At least it did at first. However with Appellations and companies commissioning the design of stemware to compliment their particular drink, what we are now dealing with is a sort of forced Corporate group-taste.

When all is said and done, stemware serves the same purpose of a good brassiere: it displays the contents to advantage. (This makes Riedel the Victoria Secret of stemware.) However you should never forget that somewhere far away, somebody is deciding what exactly you should be tasting.

Several years ago I took to tasting everything from ISO tasting glasses. They have become over time my preferred drinking vessels despite my enormous inventory of stems. However I still do the photo shoots in the “proper” stem for fear of some newbie wino having a snit fit over my glass. (I do vary this rule for purposes of photogenicity.) Today I was reviewing a rather nice Rioja Crianza, Altos by Torres. Theoretically you should drink Rioja from a big bowled glass, which indeed is what I used as the prop glass.

Stems for Modernity
Stems for Modernity

I had been making my notes using the ISO glass, but as I’d filled the big bowl Riedel I took it back to my desk. The taste difference was remarkable to say the least. The big cab/shiraz bowl emphasized the viscosity, the oak flavours (vanillin, caramel etc.) and minimized acidity and fruit.

Out of curiousity I put another splash back in my ISO glass for an A/B comparison and, no my memory is not geriatric yet. I promptly repeated the experiment with a rose I had on hand (Gamay/Pinot Noir 80/20) in both. Again the difference was remarkable. I may start tasting my whites from the big bowl and keep the reds in the ISO glasses.

This is an experiment everyone should carry out for themselves.


  1. That’s really interesting! (Although I won’t get any work done this afternoon, what with all the glass trials.)

  2. To the horror of more than one wine-etiquette snob, I’ve also discovered some wines taste better from a coffee mug.


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