The all new MCC wine glasses
11 September 2016
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Thanks for joining me for another episode of Old Mutual Live Wine edition, I’m Jenny Crwys–Williams . It’s not surprising that Graham Beck Wines, Pieter Ferreira is called Bubbles Ferreira. He nurtures an awful lot of Graham Beck grapes into his cellar and urges it into the bottle as a series of great, easy drinking MCC Sparkling Wines.
If you think you’re going to be drinking these and other MCC wines and champagnes from the now obligatory flute glasses, think again, that is changing. I caught up with Pieter at a recent Graham Beck wine tasting, or should I say, glass tasting. He gave me the low down.
Pieter, I saw some people making comments about the shape of the glasses that you drink champagne out of and people have been sneering and whatever at your little coupes and saying that’s not for Marie Antoinette. It’s a whole load of drizzle, rather put prawns in them. The other one that we’ve been drinking out of, of course, has been the flute and what Graham Beck is saying and not just Graham Beck, but other champagne makers are saying: No, not a flute. Take us into this and can you simplify it as much as possible?
Why no flute?
Pieter Ferreira: Jenny, thank you for the opportunity. It’s really been on our radar to look at glasses because I think we have mentioned before that in the last three years visiting champagne where we sort of find our divine inspiration. We never saw one flute being offered, or champagne offered in the flute.
So this made us really think about what is happening and the study has been ongoing for most probably three years now and we’ve definitely seen, obviously through the years, the coupe became the flute. That the flute now, there’s definitely better alternatives.
At Graham Beck in the last year we did a little bit of an in-house research, we ended up having 18 different glasses ranging from the current flute that we always use at the winery. Obviously worked through them to find the perfect glass for our range of Cap Classique.
JCW: It’s also internationally this is happening, it’s not just happening in South Africa?
PF: Yes, internationally, due to the research that’s being done by a professor at an overseas university in champagne, his name is Gerard. He’s come up with some incredible good understanding of how they do it. Briefly what they do to move from a flute to a bigger bowl glass was that they studied the effect of the bubble as you’ve poured a glass.
They would have studied this under high speed cameras by using laser, by using fluorescent lighting. They’ve realised that a bubble travels in the flute far too long. That might sound ridiculous but if you’ve ever been scuba diving and you release a small little air bubble deep below the water surface, by the end that bubble rises to the surface. It’s most probably grown 5x in magnitude as it comes from the bottom, it’s absorbing oxygen and the bubble gets bigger.
In theory what happens in the flute, the bubble is released, a very tiny little bubble, but by the time it gets to the surface it’s quite big. The bubble is a little bit more of a nuisance and that’s why they’ve been looking at wider shaped, or tulip shaped glasses rather than flutes.
The proof is in the testing
JCW: We’re all going to have to get rid of our beautiful flutes and I’m actually personally very irritated by that, but the difference in the taste and the mousse in your mouth is absolutely phenomenal.
PF: It’s definitely. I think the overall sensorial experience, all of a sudden you can just do a comparison. The simple comparison most probably for anybody at home is to hopefully buy a bottle of Graham Beck or take it out of the fridge, pour a flute and pour it into a standard wine glass and immediately you’ll see the effect. It’s sad to say goodbye to the flute but at the end of the day we want to give benefit to the characteristic of the wine or the sparkling.
JCW: I think we were drinking out of Riedel glasses were we not? They are expensive so for your average person, and you might break a glass or something like that, is Graham Beck coming out with a range of glasses?
PF: I think the investment for something like that down the line, as we are now specialists. Most probably if we can be invited to be involved in glass shapes for the future of Cap Classique, for instance, we’d gladly do that. But the expense of the glass is definitely, it’s really worthwhile to try this at home. There’s beautiful stemware, it’s not only about the shape. I think it’s all about the quality of the glass, the thickness of the glass, they all have little influences in the final perception of a perfect bubble.
JCW: Let’s go through some of those, I was making notes as you were talking and one of the things you were saying is that no rims are really quite important. So there isn’t that sort of little lip on the glass because that inhibits the bubbles in some way.
The perfect stemware
PF: Yes, in a way if you really had to study the flow of the liquid. In any glass with a lip, the wine travels down, picking up speed, hits the lip of the glass and then you’re sort of left with only half of the sensation. Because the initial preceptors of your tongue, where you pick up sweet/salt/savouriness is missed. So you’re only having half the experience. A glass with no lip on the top of the glass or the end of the glass is definitely a step in the right direction.
JCW: I also, according to my notes and I can write quite fast, is that you have to rinse those glasses. Because if you don’t, you can wash them and you’ve got the soap. But you’ve got to rinse them because otherwise the bubbles will simply just disappear.
PF: That’s very true. The interesting thing about CO2, which is the bubble, it needs a nucleation point. Nucleation point is a little roughage that might be in the glass. But if you have detergent and you haven’t rinsed it properly, the detergent will fill those little cavities. There will be no nucleation point for the bubbles to rise. Most new stemware do actually have little laser imprints inside the glass which really helps to concentrate and help the bubbles to nucleate.
JCW: The whole thing I think is fascinating. I think the consumers also should be looking at the amount of time the bubbles have actually been maturing. You’re talking about 24 months on the lees will be the standard Graham Beck timeframe in the future?
PF: Yes, I think time on the lees is a very important part and that will also have an influence in the glass. At Graham Beck we just didn’t want to change our stemware because it seems to be fashion now, which has come from champagne. But we’ve realised by doing this in-house study, the bowl of the glass, the age of the wine all has different sensations in each of the glasses, therefore we’ve opted for the non-vintage range to be served in a slightly wider bowled glass.
But we still want people to experience the Graham Beck non-vintage range as refreshing, lively, with lots more fruit flavours. As soon as the bowl and the wine can expand in the bowl, so slightly wider surface area, you tend to miss those points. That’s why at Graham Beck we’ve opted for three different stemware’s for our different tiers in our Cap Classique portfolio.
Drinking out of Kate Moss’ bosom
JCW: We were drinking out of three different shaped glasses, one of them as you described, quite affectionately I thought, was the Kate Moss boob sized glass, was that correct?
PF: No, that is just the revival of the coupe that was the copy of Kate Moss’s breast. Obviously in terms of having a nice party, the coupe is still lots of fun. But it doesn’t do justice to the bubble in the product.
JCW: The Kate Moss is wider in other words?
PF: Kate Moss is more towards what Marie Antoinette relates to.
JCW: We were drinking out of three different shapes. If people are listening to this and they’re thinking: This is just too complex for me. Can they go online and look at those three shapes that we were actually tasting, they were all Riedel glasses?
PF: At the end of last week we actually made a small little one-minute video show on that and it will be on our website, as I understand, towards the end of next week. By the end of the month people can dial into the website and I will be able to just briefly take them through and give people the understanding of the reasoning behind the stemware.
JCW: I think that’s absolutely imperative otherwise it can actually start to sound really quite extraordinary.
PF: Jenny, we’re not trying to promote certain glass manufacturers, in our exercises I think we had nine different suppliers. But at the end of the day it’s all about the intrinsics of the product. I think it’s really nice to see the different shapes and obviously anybody passing by the Graham Beck and Robertson, they will be able to experience the three different glasses with the sparkling.
JCW: We are coming up to Christmas hard and fast and the festive season and parties and a sense of carefree in a time of great difficulty, I think in SA. So that’s when the bubble actually I think is at its absolute best. I’m looking at the Graham Beck Vintage and I’m looking at the special wines and the overall range as well. If you had to choose one of your Graham Beck’s to really celebrate with, what would it be?
PF: Jenny, that’s always so unfair to ask.
JCW: I know.
PF: Anyway, I always jokingly say, the one in my glass. I think people have to understand that flavours do differ from palate to palate. But ultimately, for great celebration, a great all-rounder has always been, our go-to wine is our Graham Beck Brute. It’s a white blend Chardonnay Pinot Noir, the non-vintage, if it doesn’t clean your palate, stimulate the taste buds, put you in a party mood, then there’s something wrong with you.
JCW: I’ve loved talking with you Pieter, thank you very much indeed. Join us again for another episode of Old Mutual Live Wine edition, on mobile, on digital, on demand.