Esteemed family glassmakers Riedel are about to celebrate their 260th anniversary. Pioneers in the field of glass manufacturing, they take into account how the glassware itself affects perception of taste and the experience of drinking. We sat down with Georg Riedel to find out more.
Riedel is known for suggesting different glasses for different varieties of grapes, Tell us about how the shape of a glass affects the taste of the drink?
The development of all Riedel grape varietal specific wine glasses is shaped in tasting workshops by some of the world’s greatest wine-makers and experts. Wine lovers often judge a wine by the colour, bouquet and taste, but not always did they consider the glass which is the instrument that conveys the wine’s message. Riedel was the first to recognise that one wine displayed completely different characteristics when served in different glasses – there was such stark differences that even experienced connoisseurs were led to believe that they were tasting different wines. Grape variety is a key factor in determining the style of wine and the relationship between the tannins, fruit, alcohol and acidity. Using this knowledge, we started to investigate further the complex role that the size and the shape of a glass can play. Every grape specific varietal glass is built for a purpose and performs at its best with a specific type of wine, unlocking its most elusive characteristics. Riedel grape specific glassware is responsible for enhancing the four sensations in wine – bouquet, texture, flavour and finish – an experience best proven at a Riedel tasting.
If someone can’t have glasses for each different grape variety, how do you suggest they best enjoy their wine?
They do not need glasses for every grape variety at all. Many people believe I must have every single grape varietal glass in my home. This is just not the case! I have four different glasses for those grape-varieties I enjoy and drink the most – if you are a Burgundy lover and drink this wine regularly, for example, then a Riedel Veritas Burgundy glass would be a must.
Champagne – should we be using a flute or a coupe?
Neither; tall, thin flutes replaced the shallow coupe mainly due to their ability to maintain the bubbles, but both fail to show good Champagne at its best. Now if you try a vintage or premium Champagne in a tulip shaped glass, there is a noticeable difference: the wine glass allows the wide range of aromas of Champagne to unfold. This is why we created the Riedel Veritas Champagne Wine glass – the larger rim diameter enables the scent of the Champagne to be released, in a way which is not possible with a narrow flute.
How did Riedel begin all those years back?
The founder of this family-owned company was Chistoph Riedel, who was born in 1672. His grandson, Johann Leopold, the 3rd generation of the family, set up his first glass factory in 1756 in Antonínovo Údolí, leasing it from the local land-owner. This date, 1756, marks the start of Riedel’s establishment as an independent company.
It’s amazing that your company has remained family owned after almost three centuries, what do you think are the benefits of this way of working?
A willingness to succeed is instilled in us. We are brought up learning the history of our ancestors and the lengths that they have gone through to maintain and develop the company. It is only natural to want to carry the torch and ensure this passion continues from generation to generation. It is also impressive to see where Riedel Crystal is now compared to its humble beginnings in 1756. There is a sense of pride. We are also taught from a young age and grow up with it as second nature. My father was a determined man and he of course wanted me to follow in his footsteps. I was brought up to run the operations in the factory. Of course, it takes a lot for a family business to be 260 years old and it is not always easy, but the determination is there from a young age. Perhaps this is the key !
If we could only own one Riedel product, what would you suggest?
That’s easy – choose your favourite wine and go from there…
What’s on the cards next for Riedel?
There is a lot of scope in non-alcoholic beverages. We are looking into opportunities in the world of water, soda and tea. We started with Coca-Cola and completed a project with Nespresso. Of course, we are also approached with partnerships by wine producers who are interested in producing a glass for their particular variety or grape. It is an exciting time to be a glassmaker!
What’s your favourite drink?
When I was a child, Coca-Cola was a rare and special treat, which is why the project to create the COCA-COLA + RIEDEL glass was particularly great for me. Now it is of course wine. Wine has an amazing lifespan and it is why it does not come with an expiration date !
Do you have a favourite restaurant in London?
I have many favourites, but everytime I am in London I have never missed a trip to Scotts!
What’s your motto?
A day without a glass of wine is like a day without sunshine…