The Riedel Roadshow rolled into Dublin again this week, led on this occasion by the ‘Pater Familia’, Georg.
The programme was familiar- a round of interviews, a trade and media workshop and an evening sell-out tasting at €90 a pop for a largely corporate public.
Being first in the queue to meet the most publicised wine glass manufacturer on the planet, I asked him what constitutes a good wine glass.
‘Balance’ he replied, ‘and handblown, along with good quality glass and a bowl which tapers inwards to concentrate the aroma of the wine’
‘Not at all- it is an expensive process. More than 99% of our glasses are machine blown, but to a very high standard’.
‘But the glass is of very high quality ?’
‘We use the Ravenscroft formula which dates back to the 17th. Century and which creates a glass with a strong molecular structure’.
The English glassmaker did indeed pioneer lead crystal glass which was noted for its brilliance, clarity and high refraction. So are all Reideel glasses made from lead crystal?
‘Not at all. Lead crystal is also very expensive, it accounts for about 10% of our production but 25% of our sales revenue. That gives you an idea of the price.’
How then does Riedel compare to cut lead crystal such as Waterford?
‘They are for two different customers. One likes glassware as a table accessory to complement crockery, linen and cutlery. We make tools for the wine drinker. Incidentally we also make own label product for Waterford.’
So why are Riedel glasses special ? (OK- I had to ask that!)
‘We study many wines and learn how the thickness of the skin, for instance can influence the aroma. We try to produce a glass which brings out the DNA in every wine, working closely with wine makers to achieve the optimum result. Our glasses are designed to direct the wine to the appropriate area of the tongue which will best appreciate the specific attributes of a particular wine.’
Now the surprise.
Are all your glasses therefore expensive.
I want to know about the Riedel stemless wine glass which seems to make little sense for drinkers who fear heating up white wine with their hands or leaving paw marks on the glass.‘We have a special range for the hotel and restaurant sector and we can sell these glasses for as little as €3 each because there is no retail margin’.
‘It has been very successful. A lot of wine is drunk informally and even with stemmed glasses many people handle the bowl.’
I can’t disagree with that.
But what about glass itself- the stuff Riedel has been manufacturing for 11 generations (Georg is the 10th and his son Maximillian is the 11th). After all it is heavy and brittle in an age of ‘wine miles’ and health and safety rules.
‘Glass has been made for thousands of years. Of course plastic is now used for specific purposes such as on airlines or at outdoor events and it is used by soft drinks companies. Coca-Cola has discovered however that product in a plastic (PET) bottle has a shorter shelf-life than that stored in glass. I believe that glass will remain into the foreseeable future’.
And so, it seem, will Riedel.