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Recent Rieldel wine tasting is exquisite learning experience

By Staff
April 4, 2001
Last week's Riedel glass wine tasting was all we had hoped it would be, and more.
The room was laid out beautifully at Northwood Country Club. The crowd was capacity. Club manager George Constance had his staff totally and completely on its toes. And Riedel did exactly what they said they were going to do. What more could we have asked?
Riedel's Mississippi's manager, David Koening, came about 3 p.m. to set up. I arrived about 5 p.m. and between the four people who accompanied Koening and the club's own staff, the room was the personification of a bee hive.
First came the place mats, designed with circles on where to place the various glasses and which went where. Circle 1 for an ordinary glass such as regularly used at the country club.. Circle 2, a glass designed for sauvignon blanc wines. Three was marked for chardonnays, 4 for pinot noir and the final circle for cabernet sauvignons.
There were other circles along the bottom. A, B, C and D to which eventually the various wine glasses were moved as the tasters were advised. Riedel brought all kinds of literature, pamphlets describing their products and a reprint from a cover story in The Wine Spectator featuring the Riedel company and its president.
Each place setting had one country club glass and four Riedel wine glasses. But before we got down to serious business, there was a table full of champagne flutes at the entrance to the ballroom. A country club employee was busy pouring a lovely Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine from Oregon for all the guests.
Blanc de blance means "White wine made with white grapes." This was a particularly fine bottling. It carried a rating of 89 on a scale of 100 and that is very high indeed.
After the "we welcome you" sparkling wine, the guests took their seats and the tasting began. It was basically conducted by Riedel's Eastern sales manager who drove in from Atlanta especially for the event. Wines served included Cuvaison, a California chardonnay, a pinot noir from Oregon named Bethel Heights and the St. Francis Cabernet Sauvignon from California.
The company representative steered the crowd step-by-step through the wines and proved his point, the same wine tastes better from better glasses. A sampling was poured in the country club glass, then in a good glass but the wrong good glass chardonnay wine in a glass designed for sauvignon blanc wines, for example. Better than the country club glass but not as good as it tasted when another sample was poured in the true chardonnay glass.
The same was true of the red wines, a pinot noir and a cabernet sauvignon. The pinot in the country club glass was fair. It was better in their cabernet glass but at its best in the glass made for pinot noir.
And so it went throughout the evening.
There were funny stories and serious advice. While his boss discussed the glasses, Koening described the wines. It was a fascinating two hours.
The conclusions were virtually unanimous. The proper glass made the wine taste better. It channeled the liquid to the area of your tongue best suited for it and most sensitive to the wine being tasted. That's what the glasses are designed to do. That's what they did.
The staff of Edna's Supermarket Package Store (which retails Riedels in Meridian) topped the evening by offering a substantial discount on the glasses for those who attended the tasting. There was substantial response to the offer from those who had learned by coming to the tasting that good wine deserves good surroundings, the proper bottle temperature, the proper glass and knowledgeable people who have learned to judge it by the proper standards, the color, the bouquet and finally the taste.
That's why wine tastings are fun. They are not just about drinking wine. They are learning experiences, plus the opportunity to taste wines you might not normally buy for yourself because of lack of information about what might be in the bottle.
Our next tasting will be April 26 at 6:30 p.m., also at Northwood. You do not have to be a member of the country club to attend. The public is invited. We will feature cabernet sauvignons from the Napa Valley of California and I promise some of the valley's outstanding cabs will be served.
To make a reservation, call 482-0930 or mail your check for $20 per place setting to: Wines Unlimited, Post Office Box 5223, Meridian, MS 39302.
One more note. The Riedel tasting sold out and a number of checks had to be returned to the senders. My recommendation would be to make your reservation by mail or by phone as soon as possible. It's an experience. It really is.
Stan Torgerson, a longtime Meridian resident, has written a wine column for several years.