Tuesday 21 September 2010

Le Fontegnac, Vin de Bordeaux

This post is something of a riposte, following CJ’s remarks about wineglasses. What may have seemed to many like a casual, passing reference to ‘human-head-sized wineglasses with foot-long stems that smart people drink from nowadays’ is clearly a reference to my fabulous Riedel Sommeliers Bordeaux Grand Cru glass.

This magnificent example of the glassmakers art (see picture) is, indeed, 5.5 times the size of CJ’s puny Paris goblet. It is not, however, the size of a human head. Well, maybe a baby human. Or an adult mango.

However, I can do no better than quote from Riedel themselves: “This glass, first created in 1959, is not a design gimmick but a precision instrument, developed to highlight the unique characteristics of the great wines of Bordeaux. The large bowl (capacity 30 oz) brings out the full depth of contemporary wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.”

(And it will not get “trashed in the dishwasher”, because it won’t fit into the dishwasher.)

Given CJ’s last post, I simply had to compare it with his wretched little Paris goblet, that hideous little tennis ball of a glass condemned by George Reidel himself as “the enemy of wine”. A glass too thick and too small to enhance the flavour, too shallow and open to enhance the bouquet, and too mimsy to suggest generosity. Favourite of the hired caterer and the student party – and almost impossible to purchase nowadays.

(I kid you not; as I travelled downmarket, from John Lewis via Robert Dyas to Poundland, I still found it impossible to buy a Paris goblet. Eventually, Select and Save of Hammersmith offered me 6 for £3.99; one is in the picture above, and if anyone wants the other 5…)

You will see from the photo that the Riedel glass is considerably larger. 5.5 times larger, in fact. Along with the enhanced enjoyment of my Bordeaux. I think I did imagine that, seated at the head of the table with my tasting glass, I would immediately appear a knowledgeable connoisseur and masterful seigneur.

However, the glass may also convey the impression that I am intending to drink around 5.5 times as much as everybody else. Or to drink 5.5 times faster. Or I may just look a bit of a knob, sitting at the head of the table with a glass the size of a coconut.

Anyway, this being Sediment, I cannot, as Riedel suggests showcase “majestically structured red wines in all their complexity and finesse.” Frankly, they are strangers to this blog. But in all fairness to this “precision instrument”, I thought I had to find something which exhibited at least one of the “unique characteristics of Bordeaux.” Which Le Fontegnac, £3.99 at Sainsburys, clearly does. It comes from Bordeaux.

Something told me, however, that this was not going to have the sustenance of such great Bordeaux as 1947, 1961 or 1982. That something was, in fact, the back of the label., It says without a hint of shame, “It is recommended that this wine be consumed within 6 months of purchase.”

So, one for the Paris goblet, then. An aroma of wood – not oak, which could be promising, but wood as in Colliers – a dank, dark kind of scent. Then a shallow, fruity flavour, climaxing with palate-clenching tannins. Altogether reminiscent in my mouth of a leaking biro.

Not, I imagine, the kind of description usually employed by enthusiastic sommeliers. Interestingly, the bouquet in their Riedel glass was immediately enhanced, presumably because the wine had room to breathe. (Room? It’s got an entire apartment.)

But this was a bad thing. M. Riedel talks of his glass “unpacking the various layers of bouquet and delivering a full spectrum of aromas”. I could feel my nasal hairs cringing.

When it came to taste, again I have to say that the wine was, marginally, improved; less punishing on the palate. But that was probably because, given the surface area of a CD, it could evaporate faster. The aftertaste was just as acrid.

Where does this leave us regarding CJ and his dodgy wine/decent glass equation? Well, like an actor in a spotlight, a glass precision engineered to highlight the quality of a wine will highlight poor quality too. And if I have got to suffer the indignity of drinking wine at £3.99 a bottle, I am not simultaneously risking ridicule by cradling it in a glass the size of a small bucket.



  1. How could you? £3.99 bordeaux in a Riedel, not even they could save such a travesty ;)

    I have however, been to the Riedel comparative glass tastings and they are very interesting. I did think it made a difference, although there are others who equally think it doesn't make a difference at all. To them I say, have your nose checked!

    I say, next time, spring for the £7.99 jobbie at Sainsbury's, you might even enjoy it!

  2. The kind of glass you use can defineitly change the taste of your wine for bad or for good.

    You can read more about this in my article, "Why the shape of your glass matters" at www.vinogger.com/wordpress

    And I agree with Winesleuth if you are going to use a nice glass then maybe you should put some good wine in it!


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