Since the introduction of the Sommeliers series in the 1970s, the Riedel brand has become known for its ingenuity in the world of wine glasses. This year the 10th and 11th generations, Georg and Maximilian Riedel, have joined forces to bring oenophiles their most technologically advanced series yet: Performance. Performance combines decades of experience in grape varietal specific glassware with an optic design that heightens the drinker’s experience.
This is the first series that you and your father have collaborated on. How did that process work?
My father and I have been working together for the last 20 years but always on the business side. He always walked his path of “design follows function”, and for me it was more of the creative side. We met somewhere in the middle.
What was the design idea behind the range?
We originally planned for it to be handmade, but we had made such a quantum jump [in machine production] when we developed Riedel Veritas vs Vinum that I said to my father, “Why don’t we challenge our technicians?” We pushed them to create the big 10cm base, which no one had seen or been able to do on machine before, and then came the thin stem.
How did the optic design become part of Performance?
The optic has a really sweet story from when we showed the glass prototypes to our family and our team. We always surround ourselves with our team at this stage of the process; it’s all teamwork because everyone has something to say and that influences us.
So my Mum looked at it and said, “yes another glass line – so what’s so special about it?” And if my Mum would question it, I’m sure all the other Riedel consumers would question it. So we thought, what can we add to the collection to make it unique?
What’s the origin of the optic design?
The traditional technique comes from the island of Moran in Venice, where I learned about glassmaking as a 16 year old and fell in love with optic design. Last year I was working with Krug on a new Champagne Wine Glass for Rose Champagne and this was the first modern glass from Riedel in optic. I say “modern days” because if you walk through our museum here in Kufstein, you see many beautiful glasses created by grandfather in optic, from the 1950s to the 1970s.
But with these pieces, and with my decanters where I re-introduced the optic like the Cobra Verde, it was always just fashion. Here with Performance, it’s just the opposite.
The optic is much more subtle in the design than in previous pieces. Why is this?
We never want the glass to dominate at the table, so we challenged our technicians to reduce it. You don’t see it simply looking at them, only if you turn the glass in your hand. The undulation in the bowl cannot be felt on the outside of the glass, or on your lips when you drink. This is a great achievement. Our glasses cater to the wine consumption, to the beauty of the wine, and should never overtake that fact. The purpose of it is to emphasise the wine, and it is what makes Performance so unique. It’s what I call the optic impact.
What is the optic impact?
If you cut open and stretch an optic glass, the size of the bowl would be so much larger than the same bowl without optic. You get the same diameter but a larger surface area, which means the wine is delivered differently.
We compared Performance against our industry-standard bowl shapes and learned that the glasses emphasised the fruit, the minerality, the length and the aftertaste differently. We found that, in Performance, it shows more minerality than fruit, and shows more of the terroir. But the real miracle is the length of the aftertaste and the structure on the palate. This is the optic impact.
In design, do you ever feel restricted by Riedel’s Grape Varietal Specific philosophy?
Of course it is a challenge to us to further develop and improve what Riedel stands for. This is the reason why we do so many workshops, to challenge ourselves and push ourselves harder. My father has been testing new glass shapes for traditional grape varieties for the past 3-4 years. He has been diligently working on designs based on his experience, and as a result we now have a new design for Riesling in Performance, for improved aromatics.
We are also of course challenged by our competition. But while other companies produce glasses that are beautiful and light, they offer no wine experience. Performance comes with its own technology. It’s like comparing a smart phone to the Nokia of the 1990s: both do the purpose of phoning, but we don’t have to talk about the advantages of a smart phone.
How did you arrive at the name "Performance"?
Many of the shapes come from my father’s experience with his prototypes. He named these glasses P1, P2, P3, up to P7, standing for Prototype: the P Collection. The original thought was just call it “P” and we would simply number the glasses, but I had my experience with how the glasses perform with the optic impact. So you see that Performance was not born by coincidence, it was building up. Even my passion for cars played a role.
You’ve moved away from the usual red and black in the packaging. Why did you make the change?
We’ve come to realise that our average customer is younger than expected and this green is a very modern colour. Green stands for sustainability, organic, hybrid. In my point of view, it stands for a generation.
It also stands for sports. Think about British Racing Green, which goes back to beginning of car sports. When advertising on cars didn’t exist, you identified sports cars on the race track by their colour – green was always the UK, white was Austria, red was Ferrari, Italy, blue was France with Bugatti.
And if you look closely at the packaging you’ll see the colours of Austria’s flag – red/white/red. I am very proud of my heritage, being the 11th generation Austrian, so I put this for the first time onto the box. It’s the glue between the black – the traditional Riedel – and the green – the new.
Performance is being sold at the same price at Vinum. How do you achieve this price point for a product that looks and feels handmade?
It’s all thanks to the technology and our skilled technicians. Vinum continues to be our bestseller because people not only like the glass but feel comfortable with the price point. We have further developed our machinery and that has allowed us to keep a price in line for years.
We were very keen to produce a new product that was in-line with Vinum, and this was the driver for us, rather than it being a moneymaker. It is taller, it is beautiful and balanced, and it has the optic impact. I believe firmly that whoever buys Performance makes a good choice.