The Korea Herald


For Riedel, wine appreciation is all in the glass

By Korea Herald

Published : Nov. 27, 2013 - 19:15

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Georg J. Riedel, former head of Riedel Glas Austria, explains the main features of the Vinum XL series at the Grand Hyatt Seoul on Friday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald) Georg J. Riedel, former head of Riedel Glas Austria, explains the main features of the Vinum XL series at the Grand Hyatt Seoul on Friday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
The year was 1973.

Claus Riedel ― the late, former head of Riedel Glas Austria ― saw his dreams for glasses custom-tailored for specific wine styles reach full, global fruition with the launch of the brand’s Sommelier series.

Many have since etched that moment as pivotal in how oenophiles perceived the vessel’s role in the proper enjoyment of wine.

From that moment on, Riedel’s Austrian crystal glasses have spawned an ongoing debate about the true effectiveness of such wares, designed solely for the purpose of bringing out the best in aroma and flavor of specific styles and grape varietals of wine.

At first, only those who could fork over the cash for the posh, hand-blown crystalware could join in on the Riedel experience.

Then in 1986, Georg J. Riedel, heir to Claus’ revolutionary business, decided the time was ripe to produce a more wallet-friendly line of glasses. The series was christened Vinum.

“I think that the success of a brand is availability. It is approachability,” said Georg Riedel, former head of Riedel Glas Austria, explaining why he launched the Vinum line nearly two decades ago.

Since then, two more Vinum series have been released, the most recent of which was showcased at a Riedel glass tasting that was hosted by Riedel himself at the Grand Hyatt Seoul on Nov. 22.

The line in question is the Vinum XL, a series that “incorporates our findings,” Riedel said. He explained how climate changes have created “wine with more alcohol,” prompting the Austrian glassware behemoth to “adjust glasses according to Mother Nature.”

How has wine morphed over the years?

According to Riedel, in the past 40 years, the alcohol level has increased ― by 2-3 percent in Bordeaux, for instance ― and that in turn has changed how it tastes.

“Alcohol in wine is like fat in food,” Riedel, 64, told The Korea Herald at the Grand Hyatt Seoul on Friday. “It’s a flavor enhancer.”

Basically, Vinum XL was designed to suit wine that is amped up on fruit and sweetness. Wine that, based on Riedel’s comments, seems to be becoming increasingly the norm in today’s and quite possibly tomorrow’s world.

Some skeptics might shrug at the idea. In fact, skeptics have been shrugging for a while at Riedel, questioning the glasses that have emerged from 250-plus years of history, and 10 generations, now 11 with Georg’s son Maximilian at the helm, worth of family business.

To which, Georg Riedel responds, “I wouldn’t say that this has affected the company.”

If anything, the company seems to be growing, not just because it took over its once-rival Spiegelau’s parent company, Nachtman Group, in 2004, but because its own original brand has gained a global following, Korea included.

Riedel glasses first officially landed on Korean turf in 1996. Since then, Riedel has personally visited Korea six times in the past 17 years to conduct tastings.

“Korea is one of our very strong pillars,” said Riedel, who hosted a 200 plus-guest glass tasting on Thursday and was ready to guide the diners at the Hyatt through a multi-wine flight that would be followed by a four-course dinner and a set of Vinum XL glasses for the road.

According to the brand’s exclusive importer, Daeyoo Life, Riedel glasses can be found at department stores and are also used at upscale establishments and top-rated hotels in Korea.

“We have regional presence,” said Riedel, who added that though his son is now CEO of Riedel Glas Austria, he “will stay close to the company.”

By Jean Oh (