If you order a glass of wine at a nice restaurant today, it’s a given that it will arrive in a good wine glass; but that wasn’t always the case. We owe this change to one family of Austrian glassmakers: the Riedels, who were the first to make wine glasses designed to enhance specific aromas and flavors of wine, and to make them affordable for everyday use.
The Riedel (rhymes with needle) family have been glassmakers for 11 generations, since Johann Christoph Riedel traveled Europe trading glass at the end of the 17th century. The company was officially founded in 1756, when the first Riedel glass factory opened, and went through several changes over the centuries, from making window panes to chandeliers to luxury glassware. World War II took everything from the Riedels, including its then President, Walter Riedel, who was imprisoned by the Russians from 1945-1955 and forced to manufacture war products. He returned to Austria in 1955 and, with the help of the Swarovski family, opened a new glass factory.
Riedel has been unstoppable ever since. The first thin-blown, long-stemmed wineglasses were invented by Claus Josef Riedel in the 1960s, which he soon developed into the famous Sommelier line of glasses, the first wine glasses to be designed to enhance specific characteristics of wine. The current heads of the company, Georg Riedel and his son Maximillian continue to push the envelope when it comes to the experience of drinking wine, including introducing the first stemless wine glasses in 2004. And they don’t stop at wine; in January of this year, Riedel unveiled its Coca-Cola Riedel Glass, designed to enhance the distinct aroma of Coca-Cola and to control the amount of fizz delivered to your mouth per sip.
We won’t get into whether or not the pinot noir glass really enhances pinot noir more than the cabernet sauvignon glass (you can let Riedel convince you of that at one of their tastings), but we do believe that a good wine glass makes a difference in your wine drinking experience. The Vinum Series delivers a smooth, high quality experience at $60 per glass, with glass shapes specifically tailored to each major grape variety. Those looking for a more casual glass (or if you break a lot of glasses, like some of us…) Ouverture is a great bet--$24 per glass, and still tailored to types of wine.
How much do you think the glass matters? Tell us below.
Photo Credit: Riedel