A Plumm set of stemware
I never cease to be fascinated by the way glassware can change the way a wine smells and tastes. I’ve seen it demonstrated several times by Georg Riedel, and last week I couldn’t resist going to a Plumm tasting, to see if they could make the point as emphatically. Plumm is an Australian designed and owned, European-made wine-glass brand.
Plumm claims it is now the glass of choice in more than 1,000 restaurants and more than 95 wineries Australia-wide.
One of Sydney’s top sommeliers, Matt Dunne from the Solotel Group (which includes Aria, Chiswick, Chophouse, North Bondi Fish, Paddo Inn, etc.) has been retained as a Plumm ambassador. Last week, he hosted a tasting at the Paddo Inn to demonstrate the affinity of different crystal stemware for various wines. We had the Plumm White A, White B, Red A and Red B glasses and four wines to play with, plus an XL5 for comparison. The XL-5 is a small-bowl glass, which thankfully is rarely seen these days but used to be standard for wine judging. None of the wines tasted anywhere near as good from the XL-5, so we can dismiss that now.
Matt started us off with an appropriate wine in each of the four Plumm glasses: a Marlborough sauvignon blanc (Catalina Sounds 2016) in White A, a chardonnay (Mountadam High Eden 2016) in White B, a Central Otago pinot noir (Nanny Goat 2016) in Red B and a cabernet sauvignon (Plantagenet Aquitaine 2014) in Red A.
After trying each wine in its appropriate glass, in the above order, we were then invited to pour the wines into other glasses and compare impressions.
None of the wines was improved by being in a different glass; indeed, all were slightly diminished. The sauvignon blanc was less intense and less balanced from the White B glass. The chardonnay was muted in White A: it needed the big bowl of White B glass to allow its aromas to develop fully. The pinot noir had markedly less fragrance in Red A.
An obvious advantage of fine crystal is its aesthetic appeal, the feel of it in the hand. A light, well-balanced stem crystal is a pleasure to use. Bouquet is also easy enough to understand: rich, complex wines like chardonnay (and marsanne, roussanne and aged semillon, says Dunne) need a capacious bowl to allow the aromas to emerge and accumulate, whereas an intensely aromatic wine like riesling, sauvignon blanc or gewürztraminer works well in a smaller bowl.
The least-obvious aspect is how size and shape of bowl affect the way the wine is perceived on the tongue. I’m still coming to grips with this aspect.
Different bowl shape, and/or width of opening, delivers the stream of wine to the tongue in different ways. A deep bowl with relatively straight walls and tight opening like the Plumm Red A glass delivers the wine faster and in a more focused stream, which reaches further back on the tongue. This suits full-bodied, tannic reds like cabernet, shiraz, malbec and tempranillo.
The Plumm Red B glass has a slightly wider and shallower bowl and a broader, flared lip. This delivers the wine in a slower, broader stream, which accesses the front of the tongue more. Curiously, this suits pinot noir. Matt Dunne also believes this glass favours all of the more aromatic red varieties, including nebbiolo, gamay, dolcetto and barbera.
The other persuasive pitch on Plumm is that Plumm doesn’t try to tell you that you need a different glass for every grape variety. Indeed, the two red and two white glasses are the extent of the range for still wines (there is also a sparkling glass, which we didn’t trial).
And the cost?
There are two price-levels of the same designs. The Handmade range costs AUD $190 a pair for the reds and AUD $160 a pair for the whites. The Vintage range, machine-made, dishwasher-friendly and intended for daily use, are AUD $60 a pair for the whites and AUD $70 for the reds.