KUFSTEIN, AUSTRIA: The Riedel family celebrated its 250th anniversary of glassmaking last night at its factory here, joined by close to 700 other people from 30 different countries. It was a night of celebration and speeches, not to mention good food and wine.
Riedel has a lot to celebrate. The family, particularly the current head, Georg, and his late father, Claus, have changed the way the world enjoys fine wine, by understanding the important impact fine stemware has on taste. And they've sold a lot of glasses on the way. I remember the 1970s (when I was growing up and my father drank great wine from English cut-glass stemware!) and the 1980s when Baccarat was consider the best. They had nothing to do with the greatness of Riedel.
Riedel’s history in the wine world (a new book tells the full story) really didn’t begin until 1958 when Claus Riedel designed his first revolutionary wine glass, the Burgundy Grand Cru, which eventually led to the creation of the wine-specific Sommelier line, launched in 1973. I find that the hand-blown Sommelier Chardonnay glass, with its large tulip shape, is the near-perfect form for tasting all wines. I use the glass for nearly all my tastings. (The exceptions are Nebbiolo, Brunello and Port.) I travel regularly with a set of four Sommeliers in a leather case for tastings – particularly my futures tastings in Bordeaux. You can check it out on my 2005 Bordeaux tasting videos.
Although the Sommelier line got its start almost 50 years ago, it was Georg who developed the company’s strong tie to the wine world. In the 1980s and '90s, he traveled the world developing and selling wine glasses, and educating winemakers and consumers about choosing the right shape for the right wine. (He’s a great taster and serious wine collector.) He has developed glasses for just about every wine type imaginable--from Zinfandel to Syrah to Riesling--not to mention spirits, beer and even sake.
His son, Max, recently created a series called “O,” which are stemless and are the coolest wine glasses around. They have been a huge success, and the future of the Riedel company appears to be in good hands with Max, who represents the 11th generation, in line to take the helm.
The success of Riedel, which recently purchased the Spiegelau glass company, is obviously a great joy for Austria – and the half dozen or so politicians who gave speeches alluded to such. But I couldn’t help but wonder if they really understood what a global success the company has been. Only one wine producer (strangely only a handful were in attendance) gave a speech at the dinner: Angelo Gaja, who not only makes great wines in Italy but is the agent for Riedel in his country.
Gaja, always a great speaker, made an amusing speech, but the core of his discourse was what many wine lovers, such as myself, and producers would like to say to the Riedels – thank you and happy anniversary.
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — May 18, 2006 10:57am ET
Marty Smith — May 18, 2006 2:18pm ET
Guus Hateboer — Netherlands — May 18, 2006 3:09pm ET
James Mccusker — Okemos, MI — May 18, 2006 4:55pm ET
Yaron Zakai Or — Israel — May 18, 2006 5:29pm ET
Dana Nigro — New York, NY — May 18, 2006 5:52pm ET
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — May 18, 2006 9:31pm ET
Erin Robinson — kiawah island sc — May 19, 2006 2:28pm ET
James Suckling — — May 19, 2006 5:28pm ET
Guus Hateboer — Netherlands — May 20, 2006 3:33am ET
Chuck Courson — Toronto, ON — May 20, 2006 5:12pm ET
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