Interview with sommelier Ronald Kamiyama, The Cicheti Group: “Thin wine glasses merely provide a sense of elegance. The improved taste is only psychological”

By Hannah Choo 31 December, 2019
ronald kamiyama

Will wine taste good through thick and thin?

Think green beer at St. Patrick’s is gross? So do we. And while green wine may sound equally bad, the effect of colour on taste is really psychology. As for the shape and form of your glass, do they tell a different story? Ronald Kamiyama, previously beverage director at Osteria Mozza and now sommelier-partner at the Cicheti group of restaurants, has the answer.

There are specific reasons for matching the shape of your wine glass to the grape

How do thin wine glasses shape the taste of your wine?

Thinner glassware provides a sense of elegance. The taste of the wine will appear better but this is psychological. Similar to a well-presented and plated dish, it will taste better with the eyes.

Why is matching the wine glass to the grape crucial?

There are specific reasons for using a certain shape of glass, and one reason is tradition, whereby Bordeaux glasses are reserved for Bordeaux wines and Burgundy glasses, for Burgundy wines. But just to name the usual suspects, I shall refer to Burgundy glassware, Bordeaux glassware and flutes according to the general rule of thumb.

A Burgundy glass, which has a balloon shape to expand the aromas of the grape as well as calm the austerity of the wine, would be good for grapes like Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo. A tall Bordeaux glass, on the other hand, is used for higher alcohol content wines so that the alcohol may not affect your first sniff and also the alcohol can dissipate quicker. This would be good for grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah.

Lastly, flutes are meant to maintain the vibrancy of bubbles as well as maintaining a cooler temperature. However, many producers may not find this ideal, because by doing so, you miss on a lot of different layers of flavours in the wine. Sometimes, a regular white wine glass will do for sparkling wines.

ronald kamiyama
Kamiyama recommends all-purpose wine glasses from Riedel

What makes a good wine glass? Any brands that are under-the-radar?

I like using regular all-purpose glasses for everything. This is as long as I am able to control the pours inside my glass. This is the reason behind my quartino option, available at all the restaurants under The Cicheti Group. As for brands, Riedel is fine by me, though the one brand that gets a lot of attention is Zalto. It is super thin, light, elegant and not to mention, expensive.

When getting a bottle at a restaurant, how do we know when to send the bottle back?

If the wine has been corked, cooked, or oxidised due to improper storage, there will be presence of taint or TCA smells and a taste of dry cardboard. Check the cork after the bottle is opened and see how wet it is. If a wine has completely lost its fruit or acidity, then there may be something wrong as well.

ronald kamiyama
Whenever ordering a bottle at a restaurant, always check the cork for signs of improper storage

What are the common misconceptions in the world of wine?

One misconception is that an off-vintage wine means that the wine is bad. Depending on when you’re planning to drink the wine, this may actually be a good thing. I always drink the off-vintage wines because those are better to drink in the ‘now’. They develop fast, which makes ‘now’ the perfect timing to drink.

Similarly, the same misconception applies to the fact that a good vintage wine is great. If you follow the point system, these wines are scored well because they have the capability to last a long time. If you were to drink these wines too soon, you won’t be drinking them at their best potential. They will tend to be tight and not ready. These are more for wine collectors. Besides, the off-vintage wines will be more affordable.

Lastly, another misconception is that acidity always equates to sourness, which seems to have a negative connotation. I love acid! It is so important for the wine as well as for food-pairing.

If you can only have one type of wine for the rest of your life, what would it be?

It would be Sagrantino di Montefalco from Umbria. Apparently, it is the healthiest grape because of the amount of tannins in the skins. Otherwise, I stick to my acidic white wines. Like I said before, I love acid!

The Cicheti Group