George and Maximilian Riedel. Photo credit: Riedel

While the majority of wine drinkers probably don’t put much thought into selecting the vessel with which to consume their wine, the Riedel family has been perfecting the science behind varietal specific glassware for over 60 years. When we participated in a Riedel comparative glassware tasting experience, we found it surprising that even water tasted differently coming from glasses of varied shapes and sizes. Recently, we were fortunate enough to speak with Chris Hillin, Regional Sales Manager for Riedel Crystal, about the history of Riedel and its dedication to quality craftsmanship and the enhancement of food and wine pairing around the world. 

When and why was Riedel originally founded?

Riedel has been a family business since 1756, as the family glassworks began the Riedel legacy in luxury decorative glassware only moving into varietal specific wine glasses in the late 1950s.  

How does the production process at Riedel differ from other glassmakers?

Riedel produces both machine and handmade decanters and glassware. At its headquarters in Kufstein, Austria, master glassblowers produce all products by hand. In recent years, Riedel has invested in the development of proprietary machinery at its glassworks in Weiden and Amberg, which facilitates production of its ultrathin crystal glass collections like the Riedel Veritas and Performance Series.

What was the first glass ever created by Riedel?

The first varietal specific wine glass created by Riedel was the Riedel Burgundy Grand Cru Glass, introduced by my grandfather Claus Riedel.

In what way does the shape of a glass affect the perception of its contents?

The shape of a glass effects how the nose and palate first experience a wine. The shape of the bowl affects how the aromas are released within the glass, allowing the aromas of a specific varietal to open up and showcase their true characteristics. The shape of the rim determines where wine is delivered on the palate, affecting the palate’s response to acidity, tannins and fruit.

How many different glasses does Riedel currently offer?

Across all of the collections Riedel has produced over the years, Riedel has introduced hundreds of different styles of glasses, many of which are still on the market today.

What is the best way to properly clean wine glasses and decanters?

The best way to wash wine glasses and decanters is by hand, using warm water and a sponge. Using a strong smelling dish soap can leave soap residue on the glass, then affecting how aromas of a wine are perceived within the glass. We recommend using a polishing cloth to dry the wine glass after cleaning, as water marks can remain on the glasses if left to air dry.  

Which is your favorite series of Riedel glassware and why?

As the first full glassware collection I designed, the Riedel O Series is often at the top of my list in relation to casual settings. I designed the series while living in New York and I think it embodies my interests and lifestyle at the time of design. New Yorkers are notoriously tight on space so the O Series’ stemless design optimizes space while maintaining varietal specificity, adding a casual element to the consumption of fine wine. In a more formal setting, I favor the Riedel Performance Series. The series is optically blown, meaning the crystal has nearly imperceptible ridges, adding a glimmer to each wine glass. More than aesthetics, however, these waves are specially crafted for the movement of wine, thereby aerating it faster within the glass.

We noticed that your website honors a sommelier of the month. How are these individuals selected?

As a part of our sommelier of the month program, we highlight some of our most important partners in the industry who value how varietal specific wine glasses and decanters enhance the dining and wine drinking experience. We greatly value the support that these industry professionals with such expertise show to us. We look at them as evangelists for our brand, sharing the importance of varietal specificity in everyday use in the enjoyment of wine.

Where is the best place for people to learn more about Riedel and its offerings?

Riedel’s webstore offers a wealth of information on Riedel Crystal and varietal specific glassware, but I recommend a Riedel comparative glassware tasting experience, as the physical reaction to smelling and tasting what a Riedel glass can do for wine is quite profound.