Glassmaking is hard, torturous labor. “There really has not been much change in the way people make glass for the last 4,000 years”, says Maximilian Riedel (11th generation), the company’s CEO. Noting that there are no family secrets, Maximilian tells us, “the key is finding people who are qualified, willing to learn the craft and endure the high temperatures in front of a furnace. It is a dangerous job that requires specific skills and endurance. Mouth blown crystal is a dying art form. You cannot go out and buy equipment for this kind of work. You have to invent your own machinery and find the right people to produce the best quality glasses at the desired speed.”
In the 1950s, Dr. Klaus Riedel had a very clear idea of where he wanted to take the company. He opted for minimalist, clean lines that would showcase the color, flavor and aroma of wine. After long travels to Italy, he recognized that there is more to glass than its aesthetic value, and was the first to introduce glasses designed for specific varieties of wine. “A wine enthusiast, he didn’t just wake up one day and voila! It was a gradual process of trial and error”, says Maximilian of his grandfather’s breakthrough.
1. Vinum Bar Collection.
2. Vinum Collection.
The architecture of stemware has three key components: bowl, stem and base. Size, height and width should also be in perfect harmony with the correct proportions. Riedel’s designs follow the strict architectural formula spearheaded by Viennese architects since the 1920s, taking into consideration shape, size and rim diameter to translate and deliver the best bouquet, taste, balance and finish of wine. The result is stemware that is function-specific and pleasing to the eyes. Riedel’s eponymous Sommelier line, launched in 1973, heralded a new era for the brand, which now produces decanters that look like museum pieces, but are in also considered essential wine tools.
Among the most beautiful and popular products from the Austrian company, it is important to mention the bird series (Swann, Paloma and Flamingo), their first intergenerational project. “These decanters are true works of art, because there is no mold to pour the glass into. My father and I were inspired during a trip to Venice, where I did my internship on the island of Murano, home to some of the best glass artists in the world”, says a proud Maximilian of the collection that represents birds in flight. Also worthy of praise are the O decanter and the Mamba (inspired by the year of the snake), which earned the brand two Good Design Awards from the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design.
Decanters Paloma, Swan and Flamingo.
Riedel has also taken upon itself to educate consumers in the art of wine tasting. They have partnered with renowned wine makers to organize more than 2,000 comparative stemware seminars in the US and on board select Celebrity Cruises. A typical event consists of trying glasses for Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet. The guests taste the wine from the correct glass, describe the experience and compare the differences when taken from another glass.
Maximilian recommends pouring only 3-4 ounces on the glass, even if it can hold 7, since the amount of fluid influences the way wine flows onto your palate. For example, a narrow rim makes the wine flow towards the front of the tongue, where we taste more of the fruit, the sweetness, while a wider rim will direct the wine towards the back of the mouth, where the receptors for saltiness and alcohol are located. “It is all about the senses: the aesthetics, feel, balance of the glass and quality of the wine. Everything plays a big role”, says the CEO.
1. Black Mamba Decanter.
2. Black Tie Decanter.
Sommelier, Vinum, Overture, O, and Black Tie are iconic representatives of the best glassware in the world, while Boa, Mamba, O, Swann, Amadeo and Escargot are examples of the finest decanters ever produced. The reputation of the brand, with offices in Japan, Australia, Austria, Germany, China, Canada and the US, and sales of $300 million annually, is well deserved. After 11 generations of glassmaking traditions, Riedel is poised to leave the 12th generation a legacy of excellence, innovation and the best wine glasses in the world. ■