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Wine Glassware in Restaurants - A Complaint [Long]

Bill Hunt Aug 4, 2006 05:30 PM

Not so much about wine, though I feel that the glassware DOES affect the enjoyment of it. My complaint is the glassware used to serve wine in some, otherwise wine-friendly restaurants. I don't mind a jelly-jar if I'm having a bottle of Riesling in a Chinese restaurant, or neighborhood Indian-Cuisine place, but please, if you have 4-5 diamonds after your listing (US), or are on the Wine Spectator list, serve the wine in nice stemware. I've found some of the worst offenders amongst the top restaurants in the Deep South (US), especially in New Orleans. If I am having wines that exceed the price of all of the meals at the table, I expect nice crystal, with a thin wall, adequate size/shape, and a small rim. Not something from the standard restaurant supply store. I understand breakage, and having to clean the crystal, but a US$600 wine deserves more than a jelly-jar.

I've even considering picking up stemware luggage to travel with a couple of Riedel stems for just such occassions. Does anybody else travel with their glasses?

When we first moved to PHX, AZ, we dined at one of the highly respected restaurants (many accolades on the SW CH Board), and I ordered a very nice Cab for the main - Randy Dunn's Howell Mtn. '85, IIRC. We had had a few wines, by-the-glass, and the stemware was pretty poor. I asked for the wine to be decanted, and they were quick to accommodate me (good sign). Then I asked that we all (4) be given Bordeaux-stems for the wine. The reply was that they only had three "good" glasses. I got those three for wife and guests, and took the b-t-g stem for myself. I wrote a note about this to the management after the meal. As the food was quite good, and all other aspects very nice, we returned about a month later. I asked for the three "good" glasses for wife and guests, and was greeted by the response, "the manager got a note on wine glasses, and went out and bought a complete set of Spieglau stems for the better wines." Really nice to know that they read their correspondence and actually acted on my suggestion.

My feeling is that even lesser wines can benefit from good stemware. One may not subscribe to the Riedel marketing of a different US$60 stem for each varietal, but good glassware should be essential to good wine service.

Whew - off my chest,
Hunt

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  1. r
    rtmonty RE: Bill Hunt Aug 4, 2006 09:42 PM

    I couldn't agree with you more. I guess we're somewhat lucky here in SF. Many times I take wine from my collection. In most cases when the server looks at it and asks if I would like it opened, they also return with the "good" stemware. I've never been told there are only "three good glasses." Of course when you are paying$20-$25 in corkage, you really expect to have nice stemware.

    Good rant. And really good of the restaurant to read your note and take note.

    1. w
      Winemark RE: Bill Hunt Aug 4, 2006 10:13 PM

      Was this restaraunt at a Resort or independent?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Winemark
        Bill Hunt RE: Winemark Aug 5, 2006 12:06 AM

        The restuarant mentioned is part of a small resort. In the Phoenix Area, many of the fine-dining establishments are part of a resort of some size.

        All of the other restaurants, about which I ranted are independents.

        Hunt

      2. Robert Lauriston RE: Bill Hunt Aug 4, 2006 11:52 PM

        Tastes the same to me in restaurant-supply-store $2 Libbys.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          Candy RE: Robert Lauriston Aug 5, 2006 12:02 AM

          Gourmet did a blindfolded taste test a year or so ago Reidel vs no name and the tasters could not detect a difference. The conclusion was that people when they did detect a difference did so because they had been told they would. I'll buy into that. Most of my wine glasses are from Schott Zweissel and I do have Burgundy balloons and some other types and I do think big wines do need some room to bloom but find a different glass for each wine, god forbid you put a chardonnay in a sauvignon blacc glass is just silly.

          I was in a home recently (I'm a Realtor)and was highly amused to see a china cupboard in the dining room with a huge collection with all of their Reidels lined up and labled according to wine type. No I am not going to serve sherry in a burgundy or port either but I am not going to buy into the obsessive silliness that Reidel and now Waterford are promoting. i know better.

          1. re: Candy
            Bill Hunt RE: Candy Aug 5, 2006 12:20 AM

            Interesting. I did not see the Gourmet article, but have conducted three single-blind tastings for wine-knowledgable groups, one included a sommelier. In each taste test, I poured from the same bottle (a mid-range Napa CA Cab) into three different glasses. The glasses were: 1. restaurant-grade multi-purpose glass (small bowl), 2. a crystal large bowl and a 3. Riedel Vinum Bdx. stem. None of the taste-tester picked up that it was the same wine in each glass. All chose the wine in the Riedel as their favorite. The sommelier stated that glass 1 contained an inexpensive Cab, possibly CA but maybe WA state, glass 2 a mid-level CalCab, possibly Napa, and that glass 3 was an upper-level CalCab probably from Rutherford/Napa. Except for the price-point he nailed the wine in glass #3. All others, choosing #3 as their favorite usually got the varietal correct, but in glass 1, I had guesses of Merlot, Cab and two Zinfandels. One thought that glass 2 was an inexpensive Bdx blend.

            Now, we had the total experience of handling, how the glass felt, the nose of the wine, and the taste in play. As they did not know the pours, however, they were influenced by all factors.

            While these were hardly emperical tests, they yielded the same basic result. I'll go and Google Gourmet and read up on their test.

            Thanks for sharing your observations,
            Hunt

            1. re: Bill Hunt
              rworange RE: Bill Hunt Aug 5, 2006 03:40 AM

              You know, you can take this for what it is. I know litlle about wine and don't have much of a palatte, but I really believe those Reidel glasses work. I'm slowly buying my own for the times I splurge on great wine.

              This is kind of silly, but those Reidel glasses not only make good wine better, they accentuate the flaws of cheap,badly made wines. For the heck of it I poured a bottom of the line wine in a generic glass and into a Reidel. That glass brought out everthing that was bad about that wine.

        2. d
          dinwiddie RE: Bill Hunt Aug 5, 2006 12:26 AM

          This is a constant complaint among wine lovers. I don't expect Riedels (although I appreciate when they are provided) but decent stemware is a must imho for a restaurant that has a decent winelist. There are plenty of decent stems available in restaurant supply stores that don't cost a fortune.

          I have several friends who carry their own Riedels with them whenever they go out. I'm not quite that wine geeky, but I have decided that I won't return to several restaurants because I didn't want to put up with the jelly jar glasses when the wine was much too good to have in those glasses. I often take my own wine to restaurants in DC and I only patronize those that I know will provide an adequate and suitable glass for it.

          1. TexasToast RE: Bill Hunt Aug 5, 2006 12:34 AM

            The answer is Crate and Barrel!

            http://www.crateandbarrel.com/

            You can pick up "disposable" (in the sense that if they break, it's not the end of the world) glasses for as little at $2! And that's RETAIL!!! Four or five dollars gets you good glasses (on sale).

            TT

            1 Reply
            1. re: TexasToast
              Bill Hunt RE: TexasToast Aug 5, 2006 03:49 PM

              Thank you for the CNB reference. We had picked up a few "disposable" sets, that are kept at relatives' (especially in New Orleans, one of the worst fine-dining towns with bad wine glasses, that I have encountered)homes for use both there and in restaurants in the area. As most of these locations are on my wife's side of the family, I feel certain that they whisper about her wine-geek husband and his obsession with glassware.

              However, we find ourselves traveling to many locations where we don't have a stash of Mikasa (outlet mall) wine glasses. That's why I was inquiring about stemware luggage.

              Hunt

            2. m
              monday RE: Bill Hunt Aug 5, 2006 07:37 AM

              I love Spiegelau crystal, and the mid-range series is pretty affordable. I think we've paid $9-$10 per stem for our Burgundy and Bordeaux glasses at home. For the restaurant, they come in much lower. They are also less fragile than Riedel. I just like the extra room in the glass to be able to swirl my wine and enjoy the nose. And now I don't like the feel of a heavy glass on my lips.

              The worst offender is Zuni. I really like their wine list, and the mark-ups are so reasonable, but I just can't stand to watch good red Burgundy poured in to those chunky, small glasses. It's so sad. It won't stop me from going, but it does impact my wine choices there.

              1 Reply
              1. re: monday
                Bill Hunt RE: monday Aug 5, 2006 03:42 PM

                I agree, concerning the Spiegelau line, especially their "restaurant line." These have proved, over the years, to be quite good. I do not know what will, or has, change(d), since Riedel acquired Spiegelau.

                My original post was also NOT a plug for Riedel, but a cry for "better" stemware, regardless of the mfgr.

                The majority of my personal stemware happens to be Waterford Marquis Tasting Series, though I own several styles of both Riedel (both Vinum and Sommelier) and Spiegelau (before Riedel). I also collect "tasting glasses" from the myriad of events that we attend - mostly of the "restaurant" variety, i.e. small bowl, thick wall and fairly heavy (dishwasher-safe) rims. All are imprinted with the event's name, and these are just for the "memories." These were the ones that I used as "control" glasses in my single-blind taste tests.

                I was, and still remain, somewhat skeptical concerning the worth of all the various lines of Riedel glasses. I had attended several events featuring Riedel and other mfgr. tasting events around their line of wine glasses. All the glasses were good, but was unconvinced how "special" they could be. Some years back, I attended yet another Riedel tasting seminar with my wife. It was in a block of cooking classes, and was chosen because we had 1 more class coming, and it was the only one we could fit into schedule - plus we got to keep the glasses. The presenter set out about six Riedels plus a "control." When she started to pour a Shafer Red Shoulders Ranch Chard into what I thought was a Burg. balloon, I held up my hand. She just smiled and poured. She also poured this same wine into their traditional Vinum Chard glass plus the control. She pointed out to the group, that this strange-looking glass was their new Montrachet Chard glass and we began tasting. I was blown away by the wine in the three glasses. From experiences, I expected to find differences between the control and the Vinum Chard glass, but was totally unprepared for the experience of this new glass with the same wine. My wife, who loves wine, but is far less a wine-geek, than I was impressed too. She leaned over and whispered, "we've got to get some of THESE." This from a lady who has on many occassions proclaimed that if I brought another wine glass into the house, I'd hear from her attorney. My intention had been to just get all of the classes in the block, drink some wine and pick up the set of "free" Riedels. I had NO intention of buying anything. Heck, I owned hundreds of wine glasses already. As soon as the tasting was over, I acquired 24 of these new glasses. Were we both suckered? I do not know. Did we find demonstrable differences in the same big Chard between the two Riedels? Yes. Since we do a lot of white Burgs, and quite a few big CalChards, we have put these glasses through their paces. However, we also already owned 48 Riedel Vinum Chard glasses! Whatever happened that night might never be explained within the context of science. All I know is that two people, who were predisposed to NOT buy anything did. I do not know if anybody else from that class did, nor do I care. There was no mass stampede to the checkout counter, only the two of us, buying even more glasses!

                Now, I have been less impressed by any differences between, say my Waterford Bdx, my Riedel Vinum Bdx and my Riedel Sommelier Bdx. glasses with the same wine. Other than the heft of the glasses and the bowl sizes and small shape differences, they all taste pretty much the same. However, we can certainly tell the difference between the restaurant-grade glasses and any of the above mentioned ones. Parlor games? All in our minds? Great marketing overpowering us? I do not know. All that I can say is that we appreciate nice crystal for our wine, even the cheap stuff.

                Hunt

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