Can a good glass make a bad wine taste good?
Hot on the heels of my Wine and Music experiment, I dreamed up another experiment earlier this week that I thought would make a good topic for this blog. I had been given a couple of lovely bottles to review and in anticipation of a pleasant evening in, I stopped off in my favourite low budget German supermarket to get some ingredients for a risotto I was planning to make for dinner.
I love risotto – in fact as long as I am cooking, I love any food that only requires the washing up of one saucepan, and tend to gravitate towards wines that:
A. Lend themselves to the addition of alcohol to the recipe and
B. Lend themselves to quaffing the rest of the bottle while cooking.
Now I’m not one of these people that insists on wasting good wine by adding it to a recipe – there was no way I was going to humiliate either of the two good bottles I had acquired by chucking them in a risotto. Usually for cooking purposes I purchase something around the £4-5 mark that at least won’t corrode the insides of my mouth if I decide to take a swig of it. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen clips of the late Keith Floyd on Saturday Kitchen sloshing Gevrey-Chambertin into a casserole, insisting that ‘only the best will do’ – what a load of nonsense! No disrespect to the great man but crap wine is perfectly acceptable for most of us to cook with. Of course it’s nice if it comes from the region whose food you are cooking, but it still doesn’t need to be a great wine. There’s a recession on, for God’s sake.
Anyway. My brainwave was… what if I bought the worst, cheapest bottle in the shop, and then experimented to see if drinking it out of a really good wine glass could lift it somehow and make it more palatable? We’re always harping on about how important good glassware is on this site – it seemed like a good time to put it to the test.
Now, before I go any further, did you know you can still get wines for £2.99? Well, alarmingly, you still can! And with its tantalizing price point, the mysteriously labelled “Italian White” from the German supermarket became my muse for the evening.
Step one: Tasting a bad wine out of a bad glass
The glass I chose was sort of pointy at the bottom so it was difficult to get a good swirl, and I think it came in a pack of 4 for 99p in Asda. Here’s my tasting note:
Now, those of you that read our recent “What is it that you want, people?!” blog will have already digested and understood that this ingenious tasting note, but just in case you didn’t, I’ll tell you what it says. The wine tasted of, well… wine. It had no discernible flavour of its own. It was not oaked. It would be a good accompaniment for a prisoner’s last meal, and as you can see from the final picture, it is not getting me drunk at all, rather I am finding it emotionally troubling. (That’s not me in the prison picture by the way, although I can see the similarity.)
Now, here’s what happened when I tasted the bad wine out of the good glass:
As you can see, two significant things are different here. Instead of tasting of nothing, the wine tastes of, well, fruit. Indiscernible fruit, to be fair, so I have just drawn a blob to indicate this. But fruit nonetheless. The other significant difference is that its most sensible accompaniment would be a prisoner’s last meal, but as you can see, this time the incarcerated fellow is actually quite enjoying it. I am still troubled by it, but then as you know I have two rather good bottles coming my way shortly so I’ll inevitably cheer up eventually.
So… should you purchase good glasses, and maybe skimp on the quality of your wines?
No, absolutely not – what this experiment taught me is that a good set of wine glasses is absolutely essential. I tasted the two good wines out of both the bad glass and the good glass, and the difference was phenomenal – think ‘good’ versus ‘blow-your-socks-off amazing’, and that’s the real power of a good set of wine glasses.
My risotto was pretty good too.
Guide to the Best Red Wine Glasses