The Glass Shapes the Wine Experience

Looking to enhance the overall sensory experience for guests, Each wine varietal gets its own Riedel glass at The Immigrant Restaurant at The American Club Resort in Kohler, Wisconsin.
Looking to enhance the overall sensory experience for guests, Each wine varietal gets its own Riedel glass at The Immigrant Restaurant at The American Club Resort in Kohler, Wisconsin. The Immigrant Restaurant at The American Club Resort

Rarely (OK, maybe never) do wine glasses receive gushing compliments. Instead, they are the silent observers to a multi-course feast, cradling red and white wines in their glass bowls. It’s the paint-brush-like strokes and dabbles of sauce on a plate—in the hands of a creative chef—that rise to acclaim.

But what good is a fabulous meal without wine pairings? And what if those wines are poured into glassware that reflects their nuances?

That’s the idea at The Immigrant Restaurant at The American Club Resort in Kohler, Wisconsin, where each wine varietal gets its own Riedel glass. The wine list runs between 400 and 500 selections deep, changing weekly, with a price range of primarily $50 to $300 per bottle and spanning several different regions around the globe. A few high-ticket wines, like Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, are also on the list whenever they can be procured. “A lot of our philosophy is to find rare wines you can’t find anywhere else,” says general manager Ryan Beebe. For a restaurant whose dinner entrées run $46 to $55, with options like cold-water lobster and 30-day-aged prime tenderloin, it’s only fitting that the wine glasses equal the sophistication of the dining experience.

This mantra is also true in The Winery Bar, the restaurant’s adjacent, dimly lit lounge known for its 40-some Wisconsin cheeses and 500 wine selections. Whether the customer orders a glass of sparkling wine (which arrives in a flute because “it just looks more elegant on the table,” says Beebe) or 2008 Domaine Serene “Monogram” Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon, (which lists for $416 a bottle), there is as much attention placed on having the proper wine glass as there is in choosing plates, flatware, and bowls.

“Reds you really want to open up a little more,” Beebe says, hence the nearly 25-ounce bell-shaped Riedel Vinum glass for Pinot Noir and Burgundy Red. For the 21.5-ounce Vinum Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot glass, which can also be used for red Bordeaux, “the size allows the guest to swish the wine around, and allows the flavors to go up through the glass and through the nose,” Beebe explains.

“It also adds conversation,” he says, for the novice wine drinker who might feel intimidated initially by engaging with the sommelier or wine director. By turning the focus to the glassware, asking questions becomes easier. “A lot of people are looking for that education. Groups of friends or family members love to see the different glassware when each course comes out,” says Beebe.

But this isn’t just about aesthetics. Matching a wine with a specific glass design allows aromas to fully develop and the tasting notes to emerge pitch-perfect on the palate. That is the idea behind the industry’s newest line of glassware: Master’s Reserve, by Libbey Foodservice, a collection of 21 different glasses, all made in the United States with ClearFire glass, an HD2 rim, and DuraTemp treatment. Launched last summer, it comes in three patterns: Renaissance, Prism, and Rivere. A fourth pattern—Symmetry—is expected to debut later this year. The glasses, which have a seamless design, are used by restaurants in the U.S. and Canada, like Monteverde in Chicago and Little Napoli in Carmel, California. “We’ve learned that the wine-glass shape can affect, positively or negatively, the flavor, aroma, and wine experience,” says Jerry Moore, Libbey’s glassware product manager.



Glassware absolutely affects the experience of the wine. Riedel has exploited and mastered the partnership of glass and wine. Why spend good and sometimes substantial money on wine only to impair your experience with a less than expressive glass. Many will spend $100 for a bottle of wine consumed only once, but resist spending $20-30 for a glass used many times that enhances every bottle of wine consumer from it.

If the Immigrant Restaurant was as concerned with the "wine glasses equaling the sophistication of the restaurant", they wouldn't be serving their sparkling wine in a champagne flute simply because "it just looks more elegant on the table". Champagne is a wine, and serving it in a flute, while pretty, does not allow the aromas to escape, nor the wine to breathe. I've never had a sparkling winemaker present me their wine in a flute. It would be like wearing a Louboutin in a size too small. It is, of course, up to the restaurant whether they choose to educate their clientele or simply defer to prior expectations.


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