Is Riedel right about wine glasses? Château Filhot taste test

The venerable Austrian wine glass maker, Georg Riedel, has made a mistake. I know this to be a fact because I have just done a taste test on a bottle of 2001 Château Filhot that I’ve been saving for a while. Riedel recommends a 416/33, otherwise known as a Vinum Sauvignon Blanc (left) for the noble rotten wines of Sauternes. I’ve just received a brace of Rheingaus (right), or 416/1 to the librarians amongst you, as a present. So I thought I would do a taste comparison and, what a shock!

Now, when it comes to tasting wine, there are so many variables that I am certain that two people can never taste the same wine in the same way, even side by side. It’s not just the terroir, the grapes, the winemaker, the storage conditions. What about the serving temperature, the glass it is served in, how long it has been opened, who you are drinking with, what you ate earlier? Indeed this experiment proved to me that even the length of time the wine has been in the glass makes a difference to the taste.

For the record, I preferred the Rheingau because it showed off the deep, earthy, waxy flavours of the Filhot – rum and raisin fudge with a hint of gooseberry. By contrast, the Sauvignon glass showed off more of the forward sweetness – toffee like with some lemon. Both very nice, but very different. Strange that, according to Riedel, the Rhiengau is designed largely for dry white wines.

Then I poured again and tasted more quickly. Subtly different again. The Sauvignon yielding more wax. The Rheingau still just had the edge though. Then I thought, hang on, this is daft! How can a glass make a difference if you swill the wine around your mouth anyway. So I passed the glasses to my teetotal wife who has a super-sensitive nose. She could clearly smell the difference. So I don’t believe it is where the wine lands on your tongue, it must be the way the wine sits and ‘matures’ in the glass. At least, that’s my theory for now.

So what have we really learnt? Every time I drink wine it will taste different – there are no real benchmarks, no real scores, just at a given point in time I will either like the wine, or love it, or I won’t. But those very variables that I am flippantly dismissing do make a big difference (temperature obviously the most significant for me – see  my WART campaign).

Pretty sure the Filhot came from Costco and was delish from either glass, although can’t remember exactly what I paid. Riedel glasses are probably available at Sainsbury’s these days or from online shopkeepists – normally at about £10-15 per glass.

9 Responses to “Is Riedel right about wine glasses? Château Filhot taste test”

  1. Steve Slatcher Says:

    I bought quite a lot of that Filhot from Costco. At £10 ex VAT for a half, I thought it was a bargain – no longer available of course.

    Why do different glasses make wine taste different? 1) They present the aromas to the nose differently depending on the shape. Some shape concentrate more, some take your nose closer or further away from the wine. 2) I think there is something about the wine flow on the tongue. Certainly I have experienced different levels of acidity from different glasses and that is all about the tongue, not the nose. 3) Aesthetics are important. This is partly my personal theory, but it is based on some experimental evidence. I think a glass’s appearance and feel can actually influence our perception of the wine. 4) Marketing – a similar effect to 3, but more subject to cynical manipulation.

  2. Steve Slatcher Says:

    Oops. No, it was the Coutet 94 that I bought so many of, and which I thought was the great bargain (£8.75 for a half, incl VAT I think). But I did enjoy the Filhot too!

  3. The Sediment Blog Says:

    Whatever you choose, eschew the wretched little Paris goblet, favourite of the hired caterer and the student party, 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.

  4. Winerackd Says:

    A very interesting comparison and I have had little experience with the Rheingau glass. There is no one steadfast rule for any glass. Riedel have done their best to communicate best fit. I often find southern rhone wines work best in the Hermitage glass for example. For a wine I have not tried before, I always try 2 different glasses to see which delivers flavour best. There is usually a best all rounder for anyone from one brand or another.

    Flavour is transmitted to the nose from within the mouth up past the Uvula to the olfactory nerves. It is not when the aroma passes into the nose from the face (that is smell). There is very little or no effect of the way liquid flows onto the tongue. The tongue map is what is taught to children to explain the tongue. Try pouring some liquid onto just one part of your tongue. The impact of acidity is the combination of volume, speed, salivation and flavour (which affects the perception of acidity.) The appearance and feel of the glass does affect perception and expectation. The marketing affect is significant on your choice of brand/shape but not on the actual perception of flavour. The tiniest variations in shape of glass change the flavour.

  5. Steven Says:

    Interesting opinion on the Riedel versus Rheingau glasses. I am a big proponent of using correct glasses as can be seen on my post at
    I have several different makes, but broke my favorite Riedel Bordeaux glass a while back. I may have to try the Rheingau in the future. Thanks for the interesting take. Ps. I saw your post on Zite, the Ipad app that pulls together articles of interest, you’ve hit the big time!

  6. Alastair Bathgate Says:

    Sediment Blog,

    I think you are referring to the glass that French octogenarians call “un ballon”.
    Totally agree with you on that one.

  7. Alastair Bathgate Says:


    Think I also had a bit of that Ch Coutet – a truly lovely wine. Barsac rocks!

  8. Manners Says:

    I think you should have tried a plastic beaker too, as some sort of control.

    Slightly miopic entry.I think an investment coulmn, so we could purchase higher grade wine , would have ben more interesting.But rerhaps a case of dysguesia rather than aguesia.

    I drink out of Riedels incidently.

  9. Alastair Bathgate Says:

    Blimey Manners – had to look those words up on – not sure I am any the wiser!

    Maybe the old “ballon” should be the control sample?

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