Bowl, stem, and foot. A classic wine glass is made up of these three parts. However, putting them together is an art in itself; one that only few manufactures have mastered. Riedel Glas is one of them and in many years of meticulous work they have perfected the functional wine glass. In his interview with La Loupe, CEO Maximilian Josef Riedel spoke about the tradition-steeped family business’ visions.
L.L. / In 2008 TIME Magazine wrote that Riedel Glas has done more to enhance the oenophile’s pleasure than almost any winemaking dynasty. Could you tell us the secret to your success?
M.R. / Before Claus Riedel, wine glasses were tapered, like cups, from coloured and often even cut glass which, all in all, was often heavy and unwieldy.
With Claus Riedel began the time of the minimalist, unadorned, egg-shaped glass which is well-balanced. The wine glass you see everywhere today – no matter who it’s made by – has its origins in my grandfather’s very first series of wine-friendly glasses.
However, Riedel stands for more than that – we stand for functional glasses, which means that our glasses and decanters are tools for enjoying wine. We like to call our glasses the loudspeakers of wine because they present wine in its best possible form and bring out its character. From the beginning on we have been working closely with winemakers because for them it’s paramount that their wine can present itself in the best possible way.
L.L. / With your glasses and their special shapes one can experience “the message of wine” in an unparalleled fashion. What does that mean, exactly?
M.R. / Riedel glasses are made to underline each grape varietal’s specific characteristics, thus guiding the wine and creating a perfect harmony of tastes on the palate and the tongue. We want to give people a taste experience that is as close to perfection as possible. We invest a lot of time and effort, we regularly test our glasses and make adjustments where necessary. The last glass we tested was that for the Austrian wine speciality Grüner Veltliner and we tested it together with Austria’s leading winemakers during four workshops in lower Austria. The result was crystal clear. The glass from our new Performance Series proved to be the perfect glass.
L.L. / Your glasses are varietal-specific. Why does each grape varietal need its own glass?
M.R. / Counterquestion: Why do you need different pairs of shoes? Shouldn’t one pair be enough? No! Because a different situation requires a different kind of “tool” and that principle also applies to wine.
A Cabernet and Pinot Noir, for example, can never be drunk from the same glass because the grapes’ characteristics, their DNA, are completely different. Pinot Noir is more acidic, the grapes’ consistency is different, and the taste components differ from those of the Cabernet.
L.L. / Each glass is a combination of shape, size, and rim diameter. How do you develop the perfect glass? Do you collaborate with winemakers?
M.R. / Riedel’s design ideas are never made by a designer on a drawing board. They are always the result of workshops and tastings with my father and myself, with winemakers and sommeliers.
L.L. / Riedel Glas was originally founded in Bohemia, but today’s headquarters are located in Kufstein. Would you say that the Czech influences are still visible in today’s series?
M.R. / Riedel’s roots lie in Bohemia where my ancestors founded the first glassworks in 1756. Riedel produced in two glassworks in Bohemia, but the product lines were very different from today. When my great-grandfather Walter and my grandfather Claus resettled in Kufstein, they brought their technique of blowing glass with them from Bohemia. They introduced the Bohemian blowing iron in Kufstein. A special, finer technique of mouth-blowing glass.
L.L. / You invest a lot of passion, lifeblood, and inventive genius in your new series: would you say the Riedel glass is more craft or art?
M.R. / Riedel products are craft. They really are – despite the fact that the Burgundy Grand Cru glass from the sommelier series is exhibited in New York’s Museum of Modern Art and we have won many design prizes with our products.
L.L. / You have been in charge of the company’s fate since 2013. Has it always been your dream to take over Riedel Glas?
M.R. / I was always free to choose, and I willingly and knowingly joined the company because I could imagine nothing better than to successfully guide the family business into the future. This mission comes with big responsibility that I took on with pleasure.
L.L. / You introduced the brand in Dubai and you revolutionised the corporate presence in the US. Today wine connoisseurs in 125 countries drink from Riedel glasses. Do different countries have different preferences?
M.R. / Preferences are different, depending on country and culture. Which is also why we have such a broad product range.
L.L. / In 2008 you and your father Georg developed the impressive series of decanters that depicts birds in flight: swan, paloma, and flamingo. What glass creations can we look forward to in 2018/2019?
M.R. / In 2019 we are going to present a spectacular new series of glasses with which we more than fulfil our family mission to never rest on our laurels. We are looking forward to that.
Wordrap with Maximlian Riedel:
What’s more important: a good glass or a good wine? The combination of both. One can’t exist without the other.
The best way to take care of Riedel glasses: in a MIELE dishwasher. All our glasses are dishwasher safe.
Heavy or sparkling? That depends on the mood, the season, and the person savouring the wine.