The RIEDEL Basics: Grape Varietal Specific Glassware

Grape Varietal Specific glassware: it may seem complicated but it's just another way of saying "greater wine enjoyment", and it's the core of who RIEDEL is a brand. Find out how we discovered that the glass makes a difference, how it works, and the difference that it makes to wine.

The first stage of innovation

Claus J. Riedel was the ninth generation of an Austrian glassmaking family, born in 1925. He joined the family business when they were rebuilding their legacy after their home and factories were confiscated by the Czechoslovakians during the second World War.

When Claus took over the business from his father, the RIEDEL brand was known for the thick, coloured, and cut-glass products that were in fashion. But Claus was determined to be a leader in his field, not a follower, and in the 1950s he made an incredible discovery.

In a comparative tasting of the same wine from a number of different glasses, he realised that the shape and size of the glass had a dramatic impact on how he perceived the wine’s aroma and flavour. Certain glasses showed a more accurate picture of certain wines, demonstrating more depth and better balance.

This breakthrough led to the design of his award-winning series, Sommeliers, in 1973. This collection altered the industry, introducing clear and undecorated wine glass shapes with long stems. So if you’ve ever wondered who invented the wine glass as we know today, it was Claus.

The science behind Grape Varietal Specific stemware

1973 was the same year that Claus’ son Georg joined the family business. Over the next decade, he worked with experienced winemakers, sommeliers, and experts, and discovered that the key to wine lay in the grape variety’s DNA. The design of each glass is based on the physics of how the shape delivers the aroma and flavour to the wine drinker.

Wine aroma can be generally broken up into four categories: fruit and floral; earth and spice; oak (or tannin); and alcohol. When you put your nose deep into a wine glass and smell, the wine should offer different aromatic characters that make up one harmonious expression – just like all the instruments in an orchestra. An incorrectly shaped glass will distort the aroma profile, like a drum that plays off beat or an out of tune violin.

As well as enveloping aroma, the size and shape of your glass will affect how the wine is directed onto and delivered across your palate. This is based on the rim diameter, curve of the lip, and how far you need to tip your head back to drink. With a RIEDEL Varietal Specific Glass, you’re using a product that has been tried and tested by some of the world’s greatest wine experts, to ensure it’s the perfect loudspeaker for both aroma and flavour.

In 1986, Georg Riedel introduced the Vinum series, which were the first glasses in history to be designed for particular grape varieties, amplifying and bringing harmony to their specific characteristics. 

 

How to experience the difference for yourself

Georg’s complex comparative tastings ask wine professionals to compare the same wine in up to 20 different glass shapes, to find the perfect one for that variety. This tasting is then repeated across the world, using the same variety from different regions. There is no drawing board involved in the design – just a lot of swirling, sniffing, and tasting! RIEDEL invented this process of glassware design, which has since been copied by other companies attempting to profit off the brand’s ingenuity.

Georg simplified this process so he could offer a similar experience for everyday wine lovers, which is a fun and educational masterclass called a RIEDEL Sensory Tasting. With the help of his son Maximilian, who is now the company CEO, they educate thousands of wine lovers every year to demonstrate how the glass makes a difference.

Today, Riedel’s factories now produce 55 million glasses annually. With over 260 years and 11 generations of glassmaking experience, buying a RIEDEL Varietal Specific Glass means you’re benefiting from decades’ worth of research and development. Every bottle of wine you purchase is an investment in flavour, so using a glass that has been designed specifically for greater wine enjoyment means you’re getting the most of your investment!

 

Vinum Cabernet/Merlot and Vinum Riesling

Get the most out of your wine glasses

  • If you’re starting a collection and trying to decide what types of wine glasses to buy, we recommend picking a few shapes based on your favourite varieties of wine. Whether that means you have a collection of only white wine glasses, or only red wines glasses, or a couple of each, our rule is to never compromise on the wines you love!
  • Did you know that 70% of flavour comes from aroma? That’s why food tastes so bland when you have a blocked nose. Each glass is sized specifically with space for wine aromas, so make sure your glass is never filled right to the top. We recommend you only pour to the widest point in the bowl.
  • All RIEDEL glasses are dishwasher safe so we always recommend they go in the machine instead of handwashing, particularly if you’ve enjoyed a few wines with friends over dinner! You can find more information about caring for your glassware here.