Riedel’s oddly exquisite, oddly effective new Winewings glasses line. From left to right: Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Champagne, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah/Shiraz, Pinot Noir/Nebbiolo. (photos courtesy of Riedel)

“I need your help with an experiment,” I said to a group of pinot-loving friends. We had spent the afternoon picking wild blackberries, an annual ritual resulting in many jars of jam. We had just rewarded ourselves with a magnum of Krug, and our hosts were putting a side of salmon on the grill. 

As everyone gathered around, I assembled five sets of Riedel glassware—each featuring an Old World Pinot Noir glass, a New World Pinot Noir glass, and their newest single varietal offering, the Pinot Noir Winewings stem with its flat bottom and strange waves.

“I wish you hadn’t done this,” one friend declared after trying the Burgundy in each glass.

The company website candidly describes these oddities as “not the most visually beautiful,” but “brutally functional.” Our plan was to try three different pinots, one at a time from the three glasses.

Riedel’s Old World Pinot glass is a classic Burgundy glass with a wide bowl that tapers to a narrower opening. It’s designed to give the wine plenty of aerating surface area, capturing the delicate flavors and concentrating them on the nose. The Riedel Vinum New World Pinot glass (set of 2, $59) is what many pinot lovers know as the Oregon pinot glass. The tulip-shaped bowl was designed with winemakers in Oregon a decade ago with a flare at the top created to capture the concentrated and aromatic aromas of new world Pinot Noir.

Riedel’s Veritas Old World Pinot Noir glass

Our third glass was the newest in the Riedel varietal line, the Riedel Pinot Noir Winewings. This delicate glass with waves up the side almost looks experimental, but is designed with functionality in mind. With a squared-off bottom and sides extending into “wings,” the glass is designed to emphasize minerality, says Riedel. 

We started with a 2009 Alain Burguet Gevrey-Chambertain Mes Favorites, a classic Burgundy. With a 3-ounce pour in each glass, we swirled, sniffed and tasted, comparing the nose, the palate, and finish of the wine in the three stems.

“I wish you hadn’t done this,” one aficionado friend declared after trying the Burgundy in each glass. “I have always been a skeptic about the difference glass shapes can make,” he said. “And you’re changing my mind.”

It was no surprise that the Burgundy showed best in the Old World glass.

Riedel’s Veritas New World Pinot Noir glass

While the new world glass emphasized the fruit on the wine, the old world glass best presented the secondary flavors of earth and mushroom in an old Burgundy.

For our second bottle we opened a 2018 Four Graces Pinot Noir. It was also no surprise that this wine was a star in the new world glass which emphasized the Oregon beauty’s aromatic nose and fruit-driven flavors.

Still hoping to let the Winewings show us what it could do, we opened a 2017 Daily August from August Kesseler, a German pinot from the Rheingau. After a few minutes, we began to understand why Riedel designed the Winewings glass to push the envelope.

Many at the table had never had a German pinot this rich and delicious, but the wavy glass presented the wine in a way that neither of the other glasses could. While it was muted and earthy in the old world glass, and bright and fruit-forward in the new world glass, the Winewings stem gave an integrated, balanced taste.

Riedel’s Winewings Pinot Noir glass

Our experiment convinced even the hardened skeptics that glass shapes make a difference. “These are not the same wines,” declared one taster—they though had been poured in plain sight. While it was clear the Old World and New World glasses achieved their purposes, we found the Winewings would be the choice to “smooth-out” a terroir-driven, non-traditional pinot from Central Otago, Chile, or Germany—or any less-easy-to-define pinot.

Above all, you want to look for glasses that will maximize the pleasures of your wine; with Winewings, you get an intriguing conversation topic as well.