Riedel, the Glass Empire

Photography By Riedel

Europe is home to families where great artisan work is passed down from one generation to another. One of these families is Austria-based Riedel, who has been continuously perfecting their glassware since 1678. Two and half centuries and 11 generations later, Riedel has become a renowned luxury brand that revolutionized wine glass and continues to be the best glassware maker in the heart of Europe.

The origin of blown glassware dates back 2000 years. It’s the type of artisan work that’s still well maintained by Riedel. Based in Kufstein, Austria, Riedel exclusively produces handmade, mouth-blown glass using a technique that was first used by the Romans. Each item is individually crafted by their Austrian glass master to guarantee that the quality meets the brand’s high standard. Because of the nature of the production, slight variances in size, weight and surface between the glasses, or tiny bubbles or imperfections acceptable.

Riedel’s history started with glass trader Johann Christoph Riedel. Now, operated by Georg J. Riedel (10th generation) and Maximillian J. Riedel (11th generation), Riedel still continues to safeguard the family’s legacy in designing and producing the highest quality glasses and decanters for the enjoyment of wine and spirits. In the late 1950’s, Claus J. Riedel made a revolutionary move to introduce and develop wine-friendly stemware that can deliver the bouquet, taste, balance and finish of a wine to the senses. Based on this principle, Riedel introduced the concept of grape-specific glassware that changed the world perspective on wine drinking.

This award-winning design is known as the architecture of stemware and comprises three parts: bowl, stem and base. A stemmed glass is designed so that the size, height and width are in perfect harmony. The size of the bowl has to be in precise ratio to the height of the stem and the width of the base. Respecting the proportion between these dimensions promises a sound glass.

For these experiments, Riedel created the Burgundy Grand Cru glass in 1958, made to enhance the flavours and aromas of the Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo grape varieties, specifically for Burgundy, Barolo and Barbaresco wines. This creation was first exhibited at the World Exhibition in Brussels, Expo 58 and received a gold medal for its creative and striking design. It was later acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York for the museum’s permanent collection.

Following this great invention by their predecessor, Georg and Maximillian challenged themselves to bring this innovation to another level by introducing Riedel Performance, a technologically advanced and user-friendly collection of grape varietal-specific glasses. It is also the first Riedel wine glass series ever to feature bowls with a light optic impact, allowing the wine to open up and to fully show every aroma and subtle nuance.

Consisting of seven machine-made, lightweight, durable and dishwasher-safe shapes, Performance glasses are executed in sparkling fine crystal and feature fine stems and large stable bases. It has options for Chardonnay, Champagne, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Spirits. As their latest released this year, Performance is the new essential ‘must-have’ wine glass collection for all wine-lovers.

Aside from the Performance Collection, the talented Tyrolean glass makers of Riedel also mastered the Venetian technique known as Fatto a Mano last year. Meaning “handmade” in Italian, Fatto a Mano combines the sophistication of glass in the style of the ancient Venetian tradition with 21st-century glass-making technology, using fully automated machine-blown techniques. The ancient, colourful Venetian glass making tradition inspired the thought process and led the way towards the required design, where the stem and base would be made by hand and the bowl blown by machine.

Riedel glassmakers discovered how to build multi-coloured stems by hand and how to fuse, in the hot stage, the bowl to the coloured stem. The finished product charms the eye with its organic handcrafted feel, colourful aesthetics and varietal-specific bowls. A spectrum of white, black, yellow, red, green and blue are the available colours for the stems of the glasses with options for six shapes including Cabernet, Old World Pinot Noir, Old World Syrah, Oaked Chardonnay, Riesling, and Champagne wine glass. A special edition with a twisted stem in black and white is also available as a collectible.

With over 250 years of creative innovation and high standard, the legacy of this glass empire will naturally continue for centuries more. Without Riedel’s precise, scientific approach to its design innovation over the past 50 years, perhaps oenophiles around the world would never discover the true joie de vivre of wine drinking.

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Erza S.T.
Erza has pursued his great passion for opera and classical music for over a decade. His brainchild, the Indonesia Opera Society, has produced many classical music concerts and operas, and recently marked its 10th anniversary with a gala production. He is also a journalism lover focusing on luxury, lifestyle and travel stories, which he files from datelines around the globe.

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