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Delhi Wine Club
Chateau Baccarat Dares to Take on Riedel

Posted: Wednesday, 23 May 2012 12:55

Chateau Baccarat Dares to Take on Riedel

May 23 : French luxury crystal glassmaker Baccarat has decided to challenge the ruling position of Austrian wineglass maker Riedel by capturing a higher share of the market and has introduced Chateau Baccarat Collection with the glass having a different shape and claims it helps bring out aromas better.

The glass introduced at Maison et Objet in Paris in January this year and in Hong Kong last month, the glass is designed according to a slender trapeze line with the objective of unleashing the full-bodied aromas and flavours while minimizing the alcohol, enabling the wine to gain in subtlety without losing intensity.

It has a broad base that remind you of the tastevin, the saucer-like cups that were traditionally used by sommeliers and wine waiters to taste wines. It has sloping sides and an unusually narrow lip at the end of a vertical chimney shape that the company says prevents the alcohol from overpowering other aromas since it sinks down when the glass is swirled prior to tasting.

Thus the company seems to challenge the very concept of wine tasting by claiming that the tulip-shaped glass, with a wide flat base and a vertical chimney will prevent the alcohol from overpowering the aromas of wine when the glass is swirled. The design prevents the usual large-scale swirling movement which oxidizes the wine and burns off the delicate aromas, and retains the subtlety in the vintages, the company claims.

As might be expected, the company is betting on the fast expanding Chinese and Hong Kong wine market where premium Bordeaux wines have seen a phenomenal growth and has assumed that there will be a huge demand for the glasses which according to the company website cost $117 each almost the same in Hong Kong as well; the glass comes in individual packing as well in twos.

"People tend to confuse good wine with alcohol in wine, which is not what we want," said Bruno Quenioux, technical adviser of the Chateau Baccarat collection of professional wine glasses, according to media reports. "What is complicated with wine is to get the balance between the fire and water. Get too much fire in the wine and you lose the message of the water. But if you put too much water in the fire, then the fire is dead," he has reportedly said.

The shape prevents the alcohol from overpowering other aromas since it sinks down when the glass is swirled prior to tasting, according to the company."The main subject in the final stretch should no longer be the alcohol anymore, but the aromas and the bouquet the fine wines have to offer," Quenioux has told Reuters, adding that the new glass made the aroma more subtle.

But other glassmakers disagree, saying there is still merit in time-honored variations tailored to the different wine varieties - variations to which they have given subtle modern twists. Riedel, the current market leader of fine wineglasses  has developed different stemware for different shapes and varieties through the years and in the 1970s by claiming that each grape requires a different shape to extract the best in the bouquet. ‘Burgundy is very delicate wine for example and it needs a larger surface area to release and free its aromas," says Debra Meiburg MW, the Hong Kong based wine journalist and author.

The existing Baccarat glasses, most with crystal etchings, which are not really desired by connoisseurs or recommended by the existing manufacturers like Riedel, Spiegelau or Schott Zwiesel do not come cheap, costing upwards of $70, thus securing a niche market in the people can afford luxury cut glass.

In a country like India where people may think Riedel but buy Ocean from Thailand because of much lower costs, it is difficult to imagine that Baccarat would even attempt to sell- unlike in Hong Kong where there may be a latent market for such expensive crystal ware. They may make a nice fashion and status statement, lying in the glass showcase, or behind the bar, but the use with a risk of $117 (plus taxes in India) going down the dishwater or a clumsy hand of the servant, ought to be big deterrents in the use and consequently any significant sales.

Dubai-based Jaideep Desai, Regional Sales Director of Riedel Group looking after Riedel and Spiegelau stemware sales to India and the middle- east replied in the negative to the query from delWine whether this would make a dent into the Riedel sales. ‘Not really I would say, such claims require a lot of push. Baccarat produces high end crystal primarily for home décor and lifestyle.’

For the moment, it is a lot of hype, PR and the consequent media push to promote the product in a practically non-existent market, in the belief that the market will be created. Of course, Baccarat has a niche market in the luxury life style segment and select loyalists will welcome the new design but it is not likely to cause a revolution as their PR and media reports suggest.

Subhash Arora

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