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Does the Wine Glass Make a Difference?

Does a Malbec-Specific Wine Glass Really Make a Difference?

Breweries have been known to design a signature glass for their beer, so is it that out of the ordinary for a winery to develop a signature wine glass to enhance the tasting experience of its wine? Argentinian winery Graffigna Centenario doesn't think so: it's partnered with stemware giant Riedel to develop a signature, six-month-exclusive glass for the winery's Malbec wines. We were sent a pair of the new glasses along with a bottle of Graffigna's Grand Reserve Malbec to taste the difference for ourselves. But to detect differences in the Malbec's scent and flavor, we poured it in three different glasses: a standard wine glass, a red wine stem glass from The One, and the Riedel Malbec glass. Would the new stemware help us taste the Malbec through rose-colored glasses? What flavors would it bring out in the glass, if any? Continue reading to see our results.

Standard Wine Glass
We started with the standard wine glass, which had fairly equal bowl and rim sizes. The ritual began with a swirl of the wine and a short whiff. Our eyes widened as the sharp, alcoholic scent sent us recoiling from the glass. We took a sip, and the wine hit the back of our palate and tasted hot and radiated alcoholic fumes, as if the wine had been sitting in the sun. The Malbec flavor fell flat, lacking any dimension or detectable fruity complexities. We wondered whether the wine was bad, or just the glass.

Special Red Wine Glass
We had a couple of The One red stem glasses with a wide bowl and a small rim, characteristic of Cabernet Sauvignon glasses. In went the Malbec, and as we swirled, a softer, more violet perfume filled our nostrils. The glass shape enabled the soft tannins to seep through along with a rich berry flavor that expanded on the front and sides of the palate. We felt like this glass was more expressive of the Malbec's aromas, yet it made the wine taste more like a Merlot or a Cabernet Sauvignon than a Malbec.

Riedel Malbec Glass
The Riedel Malbec glass has a large bowl size (to "enhance the fruit-forward aromas") and a slightly smaller rim (to "direct the wine to the center of the tongue"). After a good swirl in the glass, we took in the scent. This time, it smelled muskier and dusty like minerals rather than floral. As promised, the rim did direct the wine to the center of the palate, and the tannins boldly crashed. The flavor was intensely earthy and brick-like with a spicier, fierier finish. We felt like this glass did cater to the Malbec grape, making it noticeably bigger and highlighting its tannins and acidity.

We might have been skeptics before the side-by-side taste comparison, but even when we went back and forth between the glasses, we had an entirely different experience with the wine. We're curious to see if developing signature stemware becomes a growing trend for wineries. In the meantime, we're going to pay better attention to the stemware in which we serve our wines.

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