BLOG: Riedel – An Old Brand, with a Young Heart

I had the recent chance to interview Max Riedel. As a total wine nerd, I was excited to get his perspective on all things wine. He travels the world educating consumers and trade about how important glassware is in the world of wine, and why Riedel is the best choice for restaurants and all wine drinkers. Although 1756 was the year of inauguration for Riedel. Now an eleventh-generation glass manufacture, the brand says that their key consumer is the millenial wine drinker and that people should be showcasing great glassware more in their homes.

Riedel fires their own glass ovens and set the standard for glass mastery coming out of Europe. In fact, the EU is where glass blowing techniques dominate with the most famous example coming out of the Venetian island of Murano that attracts tourist’s yearlong with a distinct collectable style. These beautiful hand-blown works of art usually take the form of colourful figurines, beads and vases. Known as Venetian crystal around the world, this decorative style reinforces the notion that your grandma clung to. You know, the kind of crystal that stayed in the hutch year-round and was purely ornamental. That’s a far cry from the brand that Maximilian Riedel is trying to reinforce. That may have been the Riedel heritage since conception, but since Max took the reins in 2002 to become the CEO of the Riedel Crystal of North America brand (at the tender age of 25), he has been reinventing the ‘mouth-blown, hand-cut’ philosophy and has single-handedly founded multiple game-changing designs to suit the modern at home entertainer and wine enthusiast alike.

Glassblowing has an always will be a complex trade. Credited with being invented by a Syrian craftsman in the 1st century BC. An art as old as time, The Riedel family name used to be associated with being glass traders in Vienna, but they steadily expanded from their family roots as Sudeten Germans in the Czech Republic to becoming one of the biggest players in the EU crystal game. As they are still family owned and operated with a reach spanning multiple continents, they are thriving and currently leading their industry.

We had the chance to chat with Maximilian from Austria, and he let us know a little bit of the backstory of his company and where the trend for fine dining has long since disappeared to.

“Historically there has been an influx of entertainment costs, with more options available, fine dining at home is becoming less and less in theconsumer eye of interest.” People are eating out, buying designer handbags and buying into the concept of what Maximilian calls ‘under the table wealth’ – no longer is luxury at home the forefront and focus on what you see, money is spent on luxury products accenting personal lifestyle choices.

This is when Maximilian’s grandfather decided to make a jump in the glass retail trade and cater to wine enthusiasts and wine lovers – people who are passionate about the juice from grape to glass that would understand and see the benefit of varietal-specific glassware. This was an intuitive business choice that forever changed the landscape of the crystal industry. Pinot Noir glasses shaped for maximum aromatic impact, champagne flutes with the perfect lip to nose dimension. These are the go-to for any home collector, budding oenophile, or studying sommelier and have since become the benchmark for service in the wine industry. In fact, the most popular glass variety in their entire portfolio is the Cabernet glass.

In today’s millennial landscape, living the wine lifestyle has become a part of everyday life. People are making wine, travelling for wine and have generally become their own wine critic as the younger generation identifies with their brand. This is largely in part to the modern identity that they have worked hard to foster. In 2004, Max created the now iconic ‘O series’ wine glasses to solve the problem of modern entertaining in a minimal space environment. Forget the white linens and double set silverware, the ‘O series’ brought stemless and stackable glassware to the forefront, without compromising quality. A long stretch from what your grandma and grandpa collected. These iconic varietal specific stemless glasses are still one of their best-sellers.

When I asked Max what his favourite advice to give to wine drinkers is, he said “Decant, Decant, Decant”, no matter what the wine or time you’re drinking it, decanting your wine is a great way to add flare (and oxygen) to your wine to open up the aromas and allow it to taste better, from Champagne to Chardonnay to all types of red wines, he wants us all to leverage the art of decanters in our wine lifestyle more and more.

Where millennial wine lovers flocked to the ‘o series’, more mature palates preferred the signature decanters, coming in 40 different shapes and sizes, customizable to the person. As the beverage experience from decanters is not varietal specific, they are designed with the service aspect in mind. In 2008, Max single-handedly developed the ‘double-decanting’ technology to enhance this very personal wine experience. This groundbreaking invention was implemented in many of his designs that bare his signature including the best-selling ‘Eve’, a cobra-snake shaped decanter that allowed the trend to flourish. Prior to this ‘double-decanting’ was limited to bottle to bottle transfer, but alas this allowed for maximum air flow and ‘double-decanting’ in one vessel for the first time. A modern legacy that will pave the way for the continued heritage of Riedel, an old brand with a young heart.

As an FYI – You can find a lot of Riedel glassware at Winners and Homesense – it’s my favourite place to shop for great glassware  and decanters!

To learn more about Riedel peruse their website here>>

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