A perfect food and wine match

My wife, DAZ in the Kitchen, is making a magnificent slow cooked beef with mushrooms and barley for this evening!  I have been smelling it cook for the last two hours and getting ravenous!  We will have a serve of Quinoa and a light salad as sides. With such a combinations of flavors going on, we thought a nice Bordeaux style blend would go really well with this meal.  I have had one bottle left of the 1992 Lindeman’s Pyrus which I have been saving to enjoy with some friends, but we just have not been able to arrange a meal together (well, we did, but had a bottle of the 2001 Henscke Hill of Grace with that meal).  Fortunately for them, we still have two bottles of the 1992 Lindeman’s Limestone Ridge which I am sure we will drink together.

1992 Pyrus in Riedel Bordeaux Grand CruThe ’92 Pyrus is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc.  I love this blend as each flavor comes through.  I have written about this wine previously, when I pulled a bottle out and we had it with soup!  You can refer to that post to get a review of the wine.  As with that bottle, the cork was perfect on and the sample of wine I had while decanting indicates that this is a slightly fresher and fruitier bottle than the last one we tried.  It should be a perfect match for the dinner.  We once again will be serving this wine in the Riedel Vimun XL Grand Cru Bordeaux glass to get maximum enjoyment from the wine.  The only thing that beats a perfect food and wine match is the same thing, but serving the wine in a Riedel glass!  I discuss the benefits of using proper glassware and taste in my upcoming wine book at some length.  For a synopsis on why proper glassware is important, review my previous post on Riedel glassware.

This meal and wine will be special.  I am sorry we could no longer save our last bottle for dear friends, but we have more than enough ‘last’ bottles to share with them – more than we can find time to drink them all.  So it was with some regret, but more excitement that we opened our last bottle of the 1992 Lindeman’s Pyrus to match our wonderful beef dinner this evening.

Now that Daz in the Kitchen has rebuilt her computer and is catching up from helping me with a number of technical and publishing issues, she should be able to get a post with the recipe out soon.  In fact, she just wrote the post with the recipe, and I am sharing with you here.

While you are unlikely to find a bottle of the 1992 Lindeman’s Pyrus to go with this meal, any good Bordeaux blend or a blend such as the Rosemount Traditional should work just fine.  Just make sure it is a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend and optionally either Malbec or Cabernet Franc.  A Shiraz blend or a GSM (Grenache, Shiraz, Mouvedre) is likely to be too heavy.

Steve Shipley, author Wine Sense, out early 2014. Published by InkIT Publishing
© 2013.  Steve Shipley
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Twitter:  Steve Shipley @shipleyaust;   InkIT Publishing @inkitpub

Make sure to clean your wine glasses properly!

As you know, I love using Riedel glasses of the proper shape to drink my wine.  The thought of drinking a Montrachet in anything other than a Riedel Montrachet glass is less seemly than pouring the Montrachet in the toilet bowl and drinking it!  I never drink wine from any other glass than my Riedel glasses when at home and unless I am certain that I can get really good wine glassware in a restaurant, I will bring my Riedel glasses (either my Vinum or my O glasses) along to the restaurant.  There is no excuse for not wanting to get the very best experience out of wine drinking and the right glass plays a huge part in that.

And in that regard, it is important to clean your glassware properly!  When cleaning my decanters, I only rinse them out with hot water or use a little bit of soap.  I then make sure to rinse out the decanter with very hot water and refill and rinse six to seven times to ensure there is no soapy residue.  About every 8th to 10th time I clean the decanter,  I use a Polident capsule (‘Yes,’ the denture cleaner!) to remove any slight build-up of red wine film.  However, the Polident capsule will leave a minty taste to it which could effect the taste of the next bottle decanted unless you make sure the decanter is perfectly cleaned.  Therefore, after using the Polident to remove any film build-up, I wash out the decanter as usual with soap and rinsing it out six or seven times, and then I repeat the process in its entirety again.

I never put my Riedel glasses in the dishwasher as I have a concern that the dishwasher may break or in some way damage them.  I know there are newer, nicer dishwashers in the Miele line that are Riedel-safe and that is great!  I plan on buying one when I move into our own apartment unit.  In my current rental unit, I wash my Riedel glasses by hand.  I have been careful to wash the wine glasses first before using the washing implements to wash other dishes as the washing implements may contain more food particles or greasy or oily residue.  However, I was not as careful and forgotten to do this with my drying towels!

Yesterday, I had used a Riedel Vinum Shiraz glass to enjoy a most magnificent bottle of the 1998 Tyrrell’s Vat 9 Shiraz to go with some great spaghetti my wife made.  I had about a third of the bottle left that I finished off today while writing and doing other work at my computer.  However, when I pulled the glass I cleaned yesterday out of the pantry, I sniffed it and it had an slight odor.  I compared it to other glasses I cleaned previously,  which were odor-free.

But the glass I used and cleaned yesterday definitely had an odor inside the glass when I put my nose to it. I tried to think what had happened and why it had a slight odor.  I often clean and rinse my wine glasses and turn them upside down to dry.  However, I make sure to turn them right-side-up quickly so as to not trap any odor in the globe.  Then I dry them with a drying towel.

The problem was that my drying towel was over-used from having cleaned  dishes the last few days and had built up some food odors on the towel.  Therefore, when drying the Riedel glass, I transferred some of the food odors to the glass causing it to smell.  I always sniff an empty glass before use and you should too.  While rare, this was one time where I had failed to clean and dry the glass properly and it could have caused my otherwise great glass of 1998 Tyrrell’s Vat 9 Shiraz to be less than perfect due to the odor in the glass.


I never store my glassware upside down on a shelf as the rim of the glass will be sealed by the shelf.  If there is any bacteria inside the glass, it can multiply and leave a poor odor in the glass, especially if it is sitting for weeks or longer.  Therefore, I always store my glassware right-side up to allow it to breathe.  I do so inside a closed cabinet so the glasses will not collect dust.  The ideal way to store glasses is upside down (to eliminate any possibility of dust), but by hanging it by the base (see above picture).  This requires you to install a rack to slip the base of the glass into.  While this is the best way to store wine glasses, it does require you to buy and install the rack.  This is not hard, but based on your living conditions, it may be difficult to find an area to mount the wine glass rack and store the glasses.  I just keep mine inside the pantry (see below).

Make sure your wine glasses are:

  • Cleaned properly;
  • Dried properly; and
  • Stored properly

Otherwise, your drinking experience will be less than satisfactory, even with the right Riedel glass and wine!

What’s With Weird Wine Decanters?

I recently wrote a blog entitled “What’s in a Glass” which describes the aesthetic beauty and noticeable improvement in the wine drinking experience by using proper glassware.  I am certain for most of us who care even a little bit about improving our drinking experience, that the investment in good glassware is well worth it. 

However, I do not believe that applies to wine decanters.  There is, of course, real aesthetic value in using a decanter that borders on being a piece of art.  Reidel has a great selection of different and unique decanters to be able to choose from, and I was gifted a beautiful Reidel Black Tie Smile decanter for my last birthday which I use to distinguish that special bottle of red, different from all the other ‘more common’ wines for the evening.

The presence in this decanter says “I am a special wine!”  And I have seen some really over the top decanters which sell in the $4,000 range such as the Etienne Meneau Album Caraffe #5 available from
Top Australian Wines.  This decanter is certainly unique and a conversation starter, but not sure of the practicality of it for decanting – or pouring into a glass!

I know several people have bought these and I expect they are getting great joy from them.  However, I must question how useful they are for decanting when the air – wine interface is so limited.  The whole purpose of decanting is to oxidize the wine and bring it to completion for drinking.  Initially, removing the cork from a bottle will allow some pent up smells to evaporate, and unless it is a very old and fragile wine, further decanting continues to improve it slightly.

While decanting, I love to put some wine immediately into the proper glass and to test it every few minutes to see how quickly it changes during the initial decanting.  I find it interesting as to how for some wines, the change is noticeable and almost immediate, yet for others – for example the 1987 Lindemans Pyrus – the wine needs to sit for 6 – 8 hours or even longer before the process is complete.

The main purpose of decanting is to expose the maximum amount of wine to air for the agreeable amount of time to optimize the wine’s flavor and character.  And for this, I find the most traditional wine decanter shape does the job best.

This is the most sensible shape for a decanter, and this one is the Maxwell and Williams Diamante Decanter for $29.95.  I have found this on sale previously for $19.95 at Meyers.  I have about a dozen decanters which come in handy when you are having a larger dinner party with multiple wines, or doing a vertical tasting of multiple wines.  For such an evening, I am glad to have my set of decanters and to have only paid $20 for each one instead of $250 – $700, let alone $4,000!  Again, there are some great decanters out there and some have magnificent character and are aesthetically appealing.  Yet, unlike the glassware from which you are drinking the wine and where the shape of the glass makes a significant difference in taste, a $20 traditional decanter, used as an interim vessel for holding the wine while it mixes with air, is as good or better solution than more expensive decanters available.

I am not trying to steer you away from more expensive decanters, especially if you get joy from the embedded art and aesthetics.  I love using and get great pleasure from my Reidel Black Tie Smile decanter, but to get the job done as well as with any other decanter, you don’t need to spend more than $20.

(The decanting  process, what types of wines to decant, and the timings will be discussed more thoroughly in a future posting.) 

What’s in a glass?

I love my drinking experiences, regardless if it’s wine, coffee or tea, and the glass makes all the difference.  The wrong glass with a great wine can choke it in terms of diminishing it’s bouquet, or splashing the wine to the wrong place on your tongue.  Why is this important?  For starters, the tongue location differs in terms of being  able to sense sweet, bitter, acidic tastes.  In general:

  • The tip of the tongue detects sweetness
  • The inner sides of the tongue detect sourness and / or acidity
  • The outer sides of the tongue detect saltiness
  • The back of the tongue detects bitterness and / or alcohol

I lifted this from a post in What’s Cooking America on tasting wine, which provides a simple, yet very good overview on the topic.

It was about ten years ago when I walked into a bottle shop to pick up some decent Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.  When checking out, I was approached by one of the bottle shop clerks to ask if I would like to sample some wines from different Riedel glasses.  My immediate reaction was “Leave me alone!  I am spending my money where it is most important – on the wine!”  He was quite confident that I would be able to discern a noticeable difference due to the glass, so I decided to take the challenge, if nothing else, just to prove him wrong!

I tried the Cabernet Sauvignon in the Shiraz glass and the Shiraz in the Cabernet Sauvignon glass and then switched them around.  My cursing was audible as I could definitely smell the difference and the enjoyment factor was enhanced when having the right wine being ‘nosed’ in the right glass.  Then I tasted each combination and was sold.  The reason for the cursing was that I knew I would be shelling about $400 for Riedel glasses (my first set of many!)  But make no mistake, for someone who loves their wine, you can tell the difference and it does enhance the drinking experience.  And aesthetically, the beauty of looking at and holding a perfectly balanced glass adds further to the pleasure!

For a great blog on what Riedel glass to drink with what wine, see the blog Confessions of a Wino by Alastair Bathgate The post provides very useful information on which range to select and what glasses within the range to select.  I agree entirely with  Confessions of a Wino’s assessment that the best style to pick from is the Vinum.  I also agree with his basic selection glass types as being suitable to cover most wines in your cellar.  However, for me, with the amount of great Australian Shiraz I drink, I need to have the Riedel Vinum Shiraz glass also, and I have the Riedel Vintage Port glass for the occasional port when late night reading.  But Alistair is absolutely correct in that you can go overboard if not careful.  Each Riedel glass is between $25 and $40 in the Vinum range and higher for the Sommelier range.

Why does the shape of the glass make a difference?  The first reason is the shape (overall size of the globe and opening at the top) influences the concentration of bouquet as you ‘nose’ the wine.  This is an important initial part of the wine drinking pleasure.  And secondly, the shape and diameter of the globe and the tightness or wideness of the opening determines where the wine is most likely to end up on your tongue and in your mouth.  As mentioned above, this can have a huge impact on the tasting experience and what types of flavors you are experiencing.

I also have a set of the O Riedel glasses which are the same shape globes, but without the stems for easier transport.  I avoided getting these for a long time as I did not find stemless glasses to be aesthetically pleasing.  But after too many bad restaurant experiences (regardless if it was a BYO or not) which did not have proper wine glasses, I felt compelled to bring my own.  I am really glad I do now, but you need to be careful when picking up the Pinot Noir and Montrachet glasses as they are very wide and difficult to hold onto to, especially after a bit to drink!

But it is not just my wine drinking that is influenced by great glassware.  My coffee drinking also benefits from it.  There is one large difference though between wine and coffee for me.  I do not drink wine to get drunk.  I drink wine for the flavor and the manner in which it enhances an eating and social experience. While I also drink coffee for the taste and pleasure, I additionally drink it for the caffeine and ‘perk-me-up!’  Therefore, I can really enjoy my first coffee of the day even if it is in a cardboard or Styrofoam cup!  Yet, if I am making it at home or work (which I usually do 95% of the time), I use glasses made by Nespresso Citiz.

The Nespresso Citiz glasses cost quite a bit.  The “Lungo” glass viewed to the right costs about $18.  The “Expresso” size is a little less and the “Latte” size a little more.  Yet, this is not much for something I use several times most days of the year!

The glasses are double insulated, keeping the coffee hot while protecting my hands from getting warm.  Additionally, the beauty of seeing the coffee parabolically shaped adds significantly to the aesthetic experience.

Bodum makes a line of see-through glassware similar to Citiz, and at about one-third the price, but they are not as nice in terms of balance and feeling when being held, and have a plainer design and etching.  Yet, they still provide a beautiful see-through experience and have double insulation.

My glassware is worth it in terms of enhancing my drinking experiences, and I would not do without!  If you plan to spend money on good wine and good coffee, spend a little extra on good glassware.  It is most definitely worth it!