Talking Stemware with Paola Embry
Left: Paola Embry, right: glasses by Schott Zwiesel
Courtesy of MMA.
Sommelier and Wrigley Mansion CEO Paola Embry told New Times last March that "The wine is one of my favorite parts of the job." It shows. The Chilean wine expert is also co-owner of Christopher's and Crush lounge, which has earned the Award of Excellence" from Wine Spectator Magazine for their extensive selection of wines.
Embry serves as wine director for Christopher's, Crush Lounge, and the Wrigley Mansion, so we asked Embry to share her expertise on stemware, sharing what brands to buy, how to "turbo charge" your wine and what "The ONE" is.
The first thing we wanted to know is, "Do you feel there's a best brand or type of stemware?" Embry says, "Riedel has done a spectacular job at educating the consumer about the difference a good glass can make when drinking wine. They have changed the wine glass business which has opened the door for many other wine glass companies."
Of course, as a restaurateur, Embry must keep style and durability in mind. "At the Wrigley Mansion, we use Riedel and Spiegelau stemware. At Christopher's, we use Schott Zwiesel, Riedel, and Stozle Crystal. These are reliable companies that offer durable and elegant glassware," she says.
So what does this expert use at home? "If you own a restaurant, it is easier to have different glassware for drinking different styles of wines," says Embry. But being practical, her style at home is slightly less complicated.
"I have a few sets of different Riedel style stemware from the Extreme Restaurant ($10 per stem) to the Riedel Sommeliers Series ($100 per stem). I also have sets of the "The ONE" ($12-14 per stem). These are great for entertaining at home when you have friends over. They work well when offering many different styles of wine throughout the course of the evening. As far as, the amount of glassware I end up cleaning at the end of the night -- it certainly is less work.
So you're thinking, "How many types of wine glasses does one really need?" Embry says to start small. "Find out what types of wine you enjoy drinking the most and start by buying those glasses. If you enjoy Sauvignon Blanc then, get a Sauvignon Blanc glass, and you can start building your glass collection from there."
If you're an all-purpose stemware buyer, Embry says to "consider buying "The ONE," created by Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson. This will eliminate the guesswork from glassware selection.
If you're in the market for new stemware, Embry says, "Look for a thin-lipped glass that allows room for swirling the wine which aerates it." And you're looking for a glass that will mingle the wine with the air. "That is when it turbo charges the wine. If possible, a glass that offers good aeration at the bottom with a narrow opening on the top. This is a good design for an all purpose glassware."
You might have noticed that some wine glasses are very small while other are large. Embry says that it's important to choose the correct glass for the style of wine you are pouring. "The correct glassware will have an enormous impact on the wine's taste and aroma. Pour a Cabernet Sauvignon into a Collins glass or teeny thick-rimmed glass and it's no longer a Cabernet Sauvignon, it is just wine. You pour the same wine into a glass that is large-bowled with steep-sides you will experience Cabernet Sauvignon."
In addition to a thin rim, she also notes that the "bowl" should be clear and not etched. She also notes that wine flows much smoother over a thin rim, than a rolled thick rim and that the rims should fold inward to help hold the aroma, noting "It's easier to swirl the wine in a glass with a large bowl. Remember, 90 percent of taste is through our sense of smell, without aroma, it is wine without a soul!"
Of course, most consider crystal stemware "the best," and Embry says she prefers crystal but says that "over the course of time crystal will stain. There is no need to buy expensive product. I use baking soda and warm water for my glasses and Kosher salt, vinegar and ice on my crystal decanters."
Once you've purchased stemware you need to hold it properly to ensure proper temperature control. "The reason for the stem on a glass is to give you a place to hold the glass without cupping the bowl and warming the wine." And be assured, temperature is important. "I would rather drink an inexpensive $15 bottle of wine at the right temperature than a $100 bottle of wine at the wrong temperature," says Embry.
After all of your research and money spent on stemware, your biggest fear might be breaking a glass or two. Embry says to "never put your crystal glasses in the dishwasher. At home, I hand-wash all crystal glassware with lukewarm water. Crystal is much more porous than silica-based glass. Unfortunately, this allows for the crystal to absorb all sorts of odors and tastes such as wash detergent, bleach, etc. I put very little mild detergent (just enough to clean the rim), and it's important to rinse very well."
Once you are drying Embry says to first, "dry the interior while holding the towel in two places, one hand under the bowl, and the other reaching into the glass carefully. If you follow these steps when cleaning, they should help avoid breakage. "