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I was queried by Michael Wangbickler (Balzac Communications), who is handling the PR account with Eisch Glaskultur. Having no knowledge of my previous history with Eisch, Mike wanted to know if I’d like an Eisch glass to learn about it. I thought, “OMG… What fun this is going to be.”
- In 2003, I wanted a Petite Sirah glass, and was talking with Paul Manchester (former Riedel sales manager).
- By August 2004, it was moving toward a reality, but Paul was no longer with Riedel. He was working with Eisch.
- November 2004, I gathered an impressive list of winemakers within the PSILY group, and off we went.
- I began my blog in December 2005. My experiences with Eisch were then a year old, so the activities missed being recorded on my wine blog by a year. This was just archived info in my press release files.
Here’s the story, now being recorded in cyber time.
You also need to know, I completely endorse Eisch’s breathable glasses, based on my extended experiences…
Imagination and innovation collided in a creation that began in November 2004. Today, Petite Sirah has its own stemware, because PS winemakers experienced Stage One and Stage Two in a process to find their perfect Petite Sirah glass. I arranged for Petite Sirah winemakers and Paul Manchester to gather and experience a tasting process that led to finding “the” specifically shaped glass to enhance the essence of Petite Sirah’s aromas and flavors.
The following PS I Love You member winemakers gathered at Parducci Wine Cellars for the beginning of a historic relational process for Petite Sirah and Eisch Glaskultur of Frauenau, Germany. In alphabetical order, winemakers present were the following. Please know that some of the winemakers are no longer at these wineries; however, the wine companies supported then and now innovation with and for PS:
- Paul Dolan, Parducci Wine Cellars
- Al Perry, Robert Biale Vineyards
- Bill Regan, Foppiano Vineyards
- Adam Richardson, Concannon Vineyard
- Bob Swain, Parducci Wine Cellars
- Miro Tcholakov, Trentadue Vineyards & Winery
- Ed West, Lolonis Winery
The group’s duty was to taste their Petites in newly created stemware that’s called “The Breathable Glass.” Invented by Alan Zalayet of Eisch Glaskultur, Zalayet’s “Breathable” stemware allows wine to aerate in just two to four minutes, versus one to two hours. Since Petite Sirah delivers notably huge tannins, the ability of this “Breathable” glass to quickly decant their wines made this a perfect companion experiment.
“The Breathable Glass” is an Eisch trade marked process, created from glass that has undergone a proprietary treatment which allows beverages to aerate very rapidly. It’s a fully natural process that takes place within the wine itself, with the original character and structure of the wine being well preserved. The recent celebration of Robert Parker’s 25th Anniversary of “The Wine Advocate” at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley was celebrated exclusively with The Breathable Glass provided by Eisch Glaskultur.
Ronn Wiegand, MS, MW, wrote the following to Zalayet, “Thank you very much for letting me test your company’s new “breathable” wine glasses. I was of course skeptical at first of claims that they softened wines and enhanced their characteristics within a few minutes. But I found that they actually do…” [Today, MS MW Ronn Wiegand has his own endorsed line of Eisch stemware.]
Three original prototypes were presented to the tasting panel. The tasting process consisted of the following:
1) Each Petite Sirah was separately tasted in glass “A”, “B,” and “C.”
2) After each evaluation, which included much discussion, the glasses were voted as to first and second favorites.
3) After the newly released wines were tasted, older vintages were also tasted for glass evaluation.
- Parducci (1985)
- Concannon (1992)
We found that it’s better to not use these breathables with older vintages. This accelerated decanting only speeds up an already softer wine, so that the process is too quick.
4) At the end of the tasting, scores were added for the most popular glass.
5) Those comments and scores were then forwarded to inventor Alan Zalayet, in order for Alan to create the second and final stage of stemware in this process.
An interesting aspect of this process is that without an equivalent to Petite Sirah in Europe, assistance from American producers of Petite was necessary in order to produced a glass solely for this wine. These gifted winemakers decided the specific requirements of the stemware, whose aspects perfectly paired with the essence of Petite Sirah.
During the morning’s proceedings, this is what the winemakers had to say about their wines being tasted in the “breathable” Petite Sirah prototypes:
Paul Dolan, Parducci Wine Cellars, “Aroma is a function of evaporation. These glasses range from short to tall (although all three glasses were tall to begin with). There are fewer tannins in the tallest glass.”
Bill Regan, Foppiano Vineyards, “This glass completely rounds out the tannins, bringing out the sweet fruit.”
Bob Swain, Parducci Wine Cellars, “The curve of the glass delivers the aromatics. With glass “A” (the shortest), more toast is delivered, because we’re closer to it. As the glass goes taller, the center of gravity seems to change.”
Al Perry, Robert Biale Vineyards, “It feels like were tasting with no gravity, we’re winemakers in space.”
Miro Tcholakov, Trentadue Vineyards & Winery, “It’s completely different in the way it smells and tastes in each globe. I need a bigger nose to match the glass.”
Ed West, Lolonis Winery, “The different shapes definitely have a different delivery, and big wines need a big bowl.”
As a finisher, Adam Ricahdson of Concannon had this to say, “The tasting not only gave us a chance to test how important the shape, size, and quality of how your wine glass affects your wine tasting experience, but we again proved to ourselves how versatile and impressive Californian Petite Sirah wines can be – I was excited to see a great range of styles from the deep and expressive to the carefully structured and refined… and how markedly the glass shapes presented each of these wine’s personalities. It was exciting to be in on this innovative process.”
As the winemakers learned in Phase One, this “Breathable” glass was/is a PERFECT fit for Petite Sirah, because wine began to decant in the glass within minutes. It softened the tannins and delivered tremendous fruit. Each winemaker was amazed by (and will attest to) the process. One-by-one, each brand was poured in two exact prototypes; one was breathable, the other was NOT. Hands down, the breathable glass was preferred each time by the consensus of the panel.
After the first round, the panel had the following requests:
- Make the glass lighter in weight
- Shorter in stature
- More narrow rim to focus the aromas and intensify the fruitiness of the wine.
By doing that, Eisch came back with a PS glass that delivered more fruit to the front of the palate, where sweetness is tasted/interpreted.
Then, at the second tasting, all winemakers returned with their original set of glasses (to make certain that all criteria were met). They were given two more prototypes, the final glasses were evaluated, and the Petite glass was unanimously chosen…
So… the Petite Sirah glass, having gone through quite a process, was designed/invented (with the extra “Breathable” benefit). Each one has the quality and look of the best stemware on the market, but will cost about half the price. The glass is very strong, and will be blown in just one piece.
Zalayet finished his U.S. tour (the Breathable line has all glass examples, from Bordeaux, to Burgundy, to Petite Sirah, etc.), and he returned to Germany to go into production.
The winemakers who sat on the second tasting panel were the following:
- Concannon – Adam Richardson
- Parducci – Bob Swain
- David Bruce – David Bruce
- Robert Biale – Al Perry
- Field Stone- Tom Milligan
- Robert Biale – Dave Pramuk
- Foppiano – Bill Regan
- Rosenblum Cellars – Jeff Cohn
- Lolonis – Ed West
- Rosenblum Cellars – Kent Rosenblum
- Mettler Wines – Larry Mettler
- Silkwood – John Monnich
- Parducci (Mendocino Wines) – Paul Dolan
- Trentadue – Miro Tcholakov
Thought you’d enjoy a process that, until now, only a few wine writers had been receiving press releases about how the PS glass came about, and who was involved in the process.
The image of the glass above is the PS glass that was the final hand-blown prototype.
And, the first image is a glass that is also hand blown and then etched for me, with only two of these existing in the world… mine and Paul Manchester’s.