« I have always known what I would do for work, » says Maximilian Riedel. He is the eleventh generation to stand behind the wheel at the family business that is world famous for their beautiful glasses and decanters.
Maximilian started in the family business when he was 20 years old, and took on typical roles as a junior leader in finance, development and sales. For a period, he lived in Paris to support a local dealer there. The great leap came when he moved to New York and started the work that would put Riedel on American wine charts. Today, Riedel is a success in wine-loving USA, and Maximilian has taken the secret to success back to Europe, where glasses from Austria are found anywhere good wine is enjoyed.
A Glass is a Glass – Or not?
“Listen, a glass is a practical thing, a tool to transport a drink to your mouth. Everything beyond that is a question of preference,” he explains.
“We strongly believe that wine should be enjoyed from glasses that are designed according to the type of grape. For example, I like a good wine based on pinot noir, and so it is natural for me to use a Riedel burgundy glass, from the Sommelier series. This is a good choice for me because it suits a pinot noir, my favorite type of grape, but also for Champagne. I am convinced of this, and this is a point for me, that Champagne always, as a rule, be enjoyed from a glass specifically designed for that type of grape. There are only 3 types of grapes in Champagne, and unless it is a blanc de blanc, I say with 99% accuracy that Champagne is based on pinot noir. Why wouldn’t you drink from a burgundy glass from Riedel, you won’t only taste the beautiful aromas of Champagne but also smell them?” He asks rhetorically.
The Wine Man
Maximilian is convinced that without a deeper understanding of what is to be put in the glass, it is impossible to perfect the function of the glass.
“I love wine. It is a natural part of life for me, and it would be difficult to be so dedicated to glass production if I did not have a clear picture of how a glass functions for the wine lovers,” he points out.
“It makes me a businessman because I produce and sell glass, but also a designer because I have clear views on the appearance of our glasses. Because I was able to build up Riedel in the US early in my career, I have worked and lived with American wine lovers. That experience has made me very aware of design, and shown me how the right design for a glass can contribute to the wine being presented in the best possible way.”
For Wine Lovers
Wine lovers are in every country, even those where wine is not traditionally viewed as belonging to the traditional diet.
“Yes, now we are in Norway, and the funny thing is that this a country where Riedel sells well, if we count glasses per inhabitant, even though wine is not produced here,” he says with a smile. “In addition, you Norwegians have this term ‘koselig’, and I imagine that Norwegians like to enjoy a glass of wine in front of the fireplace during the cold winter months, and like to see a golden white wine in a beautiful glass during the light summer evenings,” he says.
Nonetheless, there are still many people that have not discovered what the right choice of glass can do for the wine experience.
“Yes, I do believe there are many people out there who view a wine glass as a table decoration. The glass must look good on the table, and how it functions as a wine glass is of lesser importance. This is where Riedel’s philosophy of putting the wine glass in the driver’s seat plays a major role. Our glasses have both the esthetics and functionality as basic elements. In addition, it is all about feelings. We deliver glass that again delivers wine, the rational reason for choosing our glass is exactly that; to increase the pleasure of drinking a wine that you have perhaps paid a relatively large amount of money for. When the glass looks appealing and heightens the appearance of a set table, that is the feeling we are trying to awaken.”
When Riedel developed their restaurant series there were many people shaking their heads because the common thought was that Riedel produced high quality designer glass that could never survive the rough restaurant branch with stacking, continuous use and reckless treatment.
“That is correct,” confirms Maximillian.
“The cost of broken glass and the continuous ordering of replacements would not outweigh the design and feeling of a quality glass. But, we launched the Riedel Restaurant-glass, which is based on our best-selling series Vinum. It has a slightly shorter stem and we removed the lead and made a larger foot. When I presented the new series at restaurants in the US the doors were slung wide-open. Today, the Horeca-market is one of the areas that we have the largest growth, also in Norway where we have started a strategic collaboration with the Palmer Group that will strengthen our ties to the professional market.
Open, subtract, decant
It is all about the handwork. Even though parts of production at Riedel have been automated, there is still a lot that is hand-blown. Especially eye-catching are the carafes and decanters that are still made the old-fashioned way. Maximilian has a predilection for serving wine from a decanter, something he rarely avoids mentioning.
“I think every wine lover should have at least one carafe in their home. Wine must be served from a carafe. That is just the way it is,” says Maximilian.
“If you talk to dedicated wine producers the majority will recommend that young wines be opened two hours before drinking. But, we live in a world with time pressure. The clock is pitiless even when it comes to wine. It is inhuman to expect to wait two hours, especially in a time when few people have two hours to spend on anything at all. No, open the wine, and pour it into a decanter, especially if it is a young wine, whether it is red, rose and white,” he points out.
Dare to try
Except for the fact that Champagne must be enjoyed from a burgundy glass and that all wine must be served from a decanter, Maximilian only has one piece of advice to Norwegian wine lovers:
“You have to try! Never stop testing wine and various glasses together. In the end, you are the only one who knows what is right for you, and I hope you find the perfect combination with a glass from Riedel,” he concludes.