Some time earlier this year (I don’t know the exact date) I boxed up my Champagne flutes and started drinking bubbly from riesling glasses.
I’ve had a few funny looks from dinner guests since, and the clinking of glasses doesn’t seem quite as celebratory as it does with a flute, but I have certainly enjoyed what’s in the glass more since the switch. It’s not just that I can get more in the glass, I can assure you.
Good sparkling, including Champagne and Australia’s local fizz, is a highly complex wine, and if I’m paying upwards of $50 I want to be sure that I’m getting every last bit of pleasure from it.
I reckon it takes a larger bowl to reveal all the aromatics in Champagne – I’m not talking a wide Marie Antoinette-style glass (they’re for serving desserts, aren’t they?) – just a white-wine glass best suited for aromatic wines such as riesling and sauvignon blanc.
I read somewhere once that you should spend as much on the glass as you do on the bottle, and that’s a pretty astute call. I know from (a lot of) experience that a good glass really does enhance the experience, but you don’t need a glass to match every wine variety on the bottleshop shelf.
When Melbourne-based Plumm wine glasses was developing its range of high-end stemware, designer Dana Morris spent 20 months with winemakers and experts around the world researching what makes the perfect glass.
“I brought all the information back, collated and analysed it, and what the results kept saying was one thing – you need a glass for a style of wine rather than a variety. You really only need two glasses for each red and white wine style, plus a sparkling glass,” Morris says.
Using 3D modelling, she developed five glasses to cover light- and medium-bodied white wines, plus ones for lightweight and medium-to-full-bodied red wines, plus a sparkling flute.
Before you run out and put all your wine glasses in the recycling bin, Morris suggests building your glass collection slowly and buying a glass suited to the style of wine you like drinking.
“I truly believe you should buy the glass that’s right for the style that you like to drink best – if you like pinot, you need a pinot glass. I don’t necessarily believe that everybody needs to fit out their cupboard will all five glasses,” she says.
“Most of us can’t afford to have really special wines every night and we need to get the most out of everyday wines, too.
“A good glass can take a bottle that you may have spent $12-$15 on and make it smell and taste like a $20-$25 bottle of wine.”
Yes, swirling the wine around in the glass can look a bit poncey but there’s a good reason to do so. By swirling the wine around the glass you’re increasing the surface area of the wine and releasing an aromatic vapour. These aromas get trapped in the glass and deliver the first part of a wine’s enjoyment – the smell – and the more vapour, the more intense the smell.
Oh, swirling sparkling’s a bit of a no-no. The bubbles bring the aromas to the fore without the need to swirl, plus swirling only makes the wine flatter.
Argyle Pinot Noir 2009
(Willamette Valley, Oregon) $27.95; 14%
When compared to the ocean liners of wine we send Stateside, very little American wine makes it to our shores. Dark cherries, plums, vanilla, forest floor, and smoky oak on the aromas, along with some sappy notes. Similar flavours are intense and rich (the wine undergoes double maceration with its grape skins to extract flavour and colour), with a slightly earthy, beetroot-like edge and spice. Silky smooth, it has grippy tannins and a fine, intense finish.
Food match \ Salad of duck gésiers
Eden Road The Long Road Shiraz 2010
(Gundagai) $22; 13.4%
A wine of beautiful perfume, this has a tiny viognier component (1 per cent) that lifts the enticing aromas of dark cherry, blackberry, spice and earth. It’s fresh and juicy in the mouth, with intense red and black berry flavours and a line of graphite minerality that’s complex and appealing. Smooth in the mouth, it has really fine tannins and a stalky grip along with bright acidity that skips across the tongue and keeps things fresh. There’s a good finish, too. Great value.
Food match \ Quail stuffed with couscous, raisins and almonds
John Duval Wines Plexus 2009
(Barossa) $37; 14.5%
By former Grange winemaker John Duval, who comes from a long line of Barossa vignerons. This is a blend of grenache, shiraz and mourvedre and its class stands out at the first sip. Rich aromas of raspberry, blackberry, spice and coal lead to savoury flavours that include cherry, blackberry, leather and mocha oak. Structure is the star, with a great mouthfeel, powder-fine tannins and a lightness to the acid that’s well balanced with the rich flavours. It’s finish is long and memorable.
Food match \ Braised pork belly
Simonnet-Febvre Chablis 2010
(Chablis, France) $24.95; 12.5%
A wine that benefits from being consumed close to room temperature – perfect for winter nights – rather than straight from the fridge, this has lovely floral aromas that include white peach, cantaloupe, grilled nuts and slate. It has rich, vibrant stonefruit, oyster shell minerality and citrus flavours. In the mouth, there’s zippy acidity and a dry, refreshing grip that leads to a fine finish of citrus pith, honey and more minerality. It’s sealed with a screwcap, too, which is a real bonus for a French white.
Food match \ Ferguson Plarre Chicken Pie
Love a bargain
Brown Brothers Sauvignon Blanc 2012
(Tasmania) $17.90; 13.5%
The first release from Tasmania by Brown Brothers since its purchase of Tamar Ridge 18 months ago, this is immediately appealing. Attractive aromas of tropical fruits, green beans, passionfruit and melon are given a layer of complexity with some yeasty notes. It tastes similar and there’s an excellent creamy texture, with some zippy acidity and a persistent finish. It’s as good, if not better, than anything you’ll get from Marlborough in its price range. Importantly, it’s Australian.
Food match \ Soft goat’s cheese