The weather was perfect, a calm early summer day. The road to Goudmyn farm was lined with flowering trees and shrubs, the vines still clothed in that early glorious lettuce-green, here and there deepening to grassy shades of the mature leaves. The placid waters of the Breede river could be glimpsed between the trees fringing the water.
Robertson Wine Valley had – as usual – secured perfect weather for their three-day Wine on the River festival, one of the Western Cape’s most popular celebrations, and with good reason.
This year the organisers added Connoisseurs' Tickets to the choice, an option that gave visitors access to a comfy lounge area and to the Wine Theatre where a programme of tastings and food and wine pairings were among the items on the programme.
First up on Friday morning was the Riedel Tasting, and as I settled onto the tall stool in front of an array of crystal glasses I reflected that this was, indeed, the first time I had attended a glass rather than a wine tasting!
Visitors trickled in along with some media who had just enjoyed a boat ride on the river. Our presenter was polished, professional but quite relaxed and informal. She shed her shoes as she had to stand on a pallet board on the grassy floor of the marquee as she demonstrated the differences between the glasses and poured wine into both her and our glasses.
The Riedel family are Austrians who have been producing the famous glassware since 1756. The 11th generation is now at the helm although it was only in the late 1950’s that Claus J. Riedel introduced and developed wine-friendly stemware. Today the family is recognised worldwide for making the highest quality glasses and decanters for wine and spirits, also claiming to offer ranges for every lifestyle and price range, for fine dinners and for picnics.
We tasted half a dozen wines from the Robertson valley. After learning about how the rim, bowl and shape influence the wine’s aromas, textures and tastes we started with Graham Beck's Blanc de Blancs 2015, by trying it from the traditional flute and from the more contemporary champagne wine glass that is now recommended in its place. Yes, I could find more flavour when sipping from the latter, but it was the next sample that did much to destroy my built-in scepticism: We sniffed and sipped Robertson Winery’s Constitution Road wooded chardonnay, a classy and delicious wine packed with characteristic flavours and creaminess. Nice enough in a riesling glass but in the chardonnay glass with its rounded bowl textures and flavours seem to treble.
We went to on compare a pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz in the “wrong’ and “correct" glasses and by the end of the session there was an audience convinced even if they would not necessarily shell out the substantial amount required to take home a set of this grape-specific glassware. There are several more affordable options, including packs with stemless Riedel glasses for picnics and casual al fresco dining. See also www.riedel.com.
This was an enjoyable session and fine start to Wine on the River 2019.