Riedel History - Crystal Classics

The Riedel (pronounced like "needle") trademark dates from the Art Nouveau period at the end of the nineteenth century, and was used for Riedel glassware made in Bohemia from 1890 to 1925. In 1996, to commemorate Riedel's 240th anniversary, we reintroduced this trademark for all our mouth-blown, hand-made products. The distinctive Riedel signature is now featured on the base of all products made in Austria. This signature trademark helps our customers to distinguish immediately between handmade products and those made by machine. Our machine made products carry this trademark. The Riedel glass dynasty is built on the creative energies of a long line of glassmakers. The story begins in 1756 in Bohemia and continues to the united Europe of today encompassing some of the most dramatic events in European history.

Johann Leopold Riedel's first glass factory circa 1760

The Riedel family has been in the glass business for 300 years, with 11 generations keeping the family business intact. The Riedel story begins in 1678 in the northern part of Bohemia, bordering Schlesia, today the Czech Republic and Poland respectively. This part of Bohemia was a German speaking enclave known as the Sudetenland.

The Venetians brought back the knowledge of glass making from the Near East around 1, 000 A.D. The knowledge of producing glass spread slowly towards the northern part of Europe, searching for energy, critical to the melting of glass. Wood was the source, causing a glassmaker migration to the forests. Due to this migration, a glass culture developed in Bohemia in the 17th century.

The first Riedel in the trade of luxury glass goods was Johann Christoph Riedel, born in 1678. He journeyed all over Europe trading glass, traveling as far as Spain and Portugal. The earnings from the business justified the arduous and dangerous travel.

Johann Carl, 2nd generation (1701-1781) was a guilder and glasscutter. He operated his own workshop refining glassware.

Johann Leopold Riedel, 3rd generation (1726-1800), made his fortune in the Seven Year War (1756-1763) fought between the Austrians and the Prussians over Bohemia and Schlesia. The demand for window panes (needed for rebuilding the surrounding cities and villages destroyed during the war) provided Johann the chance to found his first glass factory, which he opened on May 17, 1756. His success was based on his invention of a technique that substituted stained glass windows with window panes.

The next generation, Anton Leopold, 4th generation (1761-1821) radically changed his father's production from window panes to pure luxury goods such as chandelier parts and ornate glassware.

His son, Franz Xaver, 5th generation (1786-1844) became a famous engraver in his youth. He signed his works of art, which are available at auctions even today. He later became an important entrepreneur, enjoying European demand for his goods. His main success derived from his addition of unknown colors to glass, using Uranium to produce the fluorescent colors, yellow and green, known in the literature as "Annagelb and Annagrün", which he named after his daughter. Franz called upon his nephew Josef Riedel at the age of 14 to work in his company. Josef Riedel The Elder turned out to be an extremely talented person, becoming his uncle's assistant and ultimately inheriting the company.

Josef Riedel, The Elder, 6th generation (1816-1894) had great gifts, and the fact that that he was born in the time of the industrial revolution, proved to be very much in his favor.

He left the romantic traditional production places in the Bohemian forests where the glass was melted using furnaces heated by wood and settled in Poland. When the railway came in 1877, he imported coal, which was less expensive and more efficient than wood. The railway assured that the enormous amount of goods produced could travel quickly and safely to his customers. Josef employed 1200 people. His main production was colored glass beads and blanks (glass not shaped into finished form), which were cut and polished in the small family workshops. The goods were ordered and sold through trading companies, reaching as far as India and South America. Distribution through the trading companies had a distinct disadvantage: the Riedel name never became a brand in the 19th century as the trading companies sold the goods under their own names.

The 7th generation, Josef The Younger (1862-1924) was an outstanding chemist and mechanical engineer, creating a remarkable portfolio of 600 different glass colors. This sophisticated variety of colors set him apart from the competitors and enabled his business to develop further, unaffected by the first Great War. Due to his development of new machinery, he specialized in the mass production of glass beads, which were used for jewelry and in combination with fabrics. In his cutting departments, he refined blanks with overlays of silver, gold, and color according to the fashion at the time. After 1890 he started to sign them with the Riedel logo, which was been brought into use again in1996.

The 8th generation, Walter Riedel (1895&endash;1974) suffered through two great wars, which had a great impact on his destiny. He was forced to change his citizenship four times due to unfortunate political state of affairs. In 1918, Bohemia became part of the Czech Republic, with Walter Riedel and the German speaking Sudeten becoming Czech citizens. Around 1930 the political and economical conflict between the Sudeten and the Czechs turned violent, leading to the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Nazi regime in 1938. At this time 70% of the total Czech glass production was dominated by the Sudeten.

In this time the Riedels emerged to the world as a leading manufacturer of perfume flacons and color overlaid gift items, chandeliers and chandelier parts. Walter Riedel inherited the mechanical genius of his father, developing extremely advanced mold techniques. Those products where then refined by cutting, being mounted onto metal and then wired for electricity.

The war and the Nazis forced the industry to change from luxury goods to strategic war products. Walter Riedel and part of this team worked on picture tubes, part of the radar used for monitoring airspace. This was an unique technological achievement for that time, with Walter increasing the available diameter of the tube from 38 cm to 76 cm.

This invention became his destiny. When the Russian army conquered Berlin in 1945, they found an intact tube and were very eager to locate the scientist. In this era of Stalin, they forced Walter Riedel to sign a five year work contract and held him prisoner in Russia for 10 years.

By the end of the Great War in 1945, the Riedels' property and companies were confiscated and nationalized by the Czechs. The Riedels lost their home.

Walter Riedel returned to Austria in 1955. The Swarovskis, with whom the Riedel's were very friendly, hosted Walter Riedel and offered him and his son, Claus J. Riedel, a new start in Kufstein, Austria, by reopening a glass factory, specializing in mouth blown items, in 1956.

The 9th generation, Claus J. Riedel (born 1925) had a vision. He changed stemware from traditional colored and cut glass to plain, unadorned, thin blown, long stemmed wine glasses. He gained immediate recognition from sophisticated customers and museums. Many design awards signaled that a new era had began. Museums bought pieces for their exhibition, like the MOMA in New York, which today still has Riedel in their permanent collection.

Based on his unique designs, Claus Riedel was the first person in history ever to recognize the effect of shapes on the perception of alcoholic beverages. His work has influenced and changed the appearance of stemware forever. His master piece "Sommeliers" was introduced in Orvieto, 30 years ago, the first ever stemware line to be based on the character of wine.

Georg J. Riedel, the 10th generation (born 1949) developed the business further, working in conjunction with machine glass factories to broaden the awareness of the consumer to use the right size and shape glass when enjoying fine wine. Developing the business was supported by the increasing quantity and quality of fine wine, and the opening of new markets. Georg J. Riedel was able to establish the Riedel brand as a premium name in the niche of wine related stemware.

The 11th generation, Laetizia Riedel (born 1974) is working as a lawyer and will become the legal adviser of the Riedel business.

Maximilian Riedel (born 1977) is actively involved in the day-to-day-business, in charge of our most important market-North America-overlooking administration.

The finest glasses for both technical and hedonistic purposes are those made by Riedel. The effect of these glasses on fine wine is profound. I cannot emphasize enough what a difference they make. " (Robert M. Parker, Jr. The Wine Advocate)

Professor Claus J. Riedel was the first designer to recognize that the bouquet, taste, balance and finish of wines are affected by the shape of the glass from which they are drunk. Forty years ago he began his pioneering work to create stemware that would match and complement different wines and spirits. In the late 1950s, Riedel started to produce glasses which at that time were a design revolution. Thin-blown, unadorned, reducing the design to its essence: Bowl, stem, base. Working with experienced tasters, Riedel discovered that wine enjoyed from his glasses showed more depth and better balance than when served in other glasses. Claus J. Riedel laid the groundwork for stemware which was functional as well as beautiful, and made according to the Bauhaus design principle: form follows function.

In 1961 a revolutionary concept was introduced, when the Riedel catalogue featured the first line of wine glasses created in different sizes and shapes. Before this, conventional stemware had used a single basic bowl shape, with only the size varying depending on use. The concept was illustrated to perfection with the introduction of the Sommeliers series in 1973, which achieved worldwide recognition. A glass was born that turns a sip into a celebration - a wine's best friend - fine-tuned to match the grape! We invite you to share this fascinating and unique experience. You don't need to be a wine writer, a wine maker or an expert to taste the difference that a Riedel glass can make.

The Content Determines The Shape

When developing a glass Riedel's design ideas are not born on a drawing board but shaped by trial and error with the help and support of the world's greatest palates. A person interested in wine is led by color, bouquet and taste, but often the glass is not considered as an instrument to convey the message of the wine. Over the years Riedel acquired some interesting scientific explanations as to why the shape of a glass influences the bouquet and taste of alcoholic beverages. The first discovery was made while enjoying wine. The same wine displayed completely different characteristics when served in a variety of glasses. The differences were so great that experienced connoisseurs were made to believe that they were tasting a different wine. The grape variety is the key factor in determining the relationship between fruit, acidity, tannin and alcohol. As the next step, Riedel was able to create shapes in which the wine, vinified from specific grape varieties, seemed to improve. We started to recognize the complex role that size and shape play in conveying the message of a fine wine.

Bouquet

The quality and intensity of aromas are determined not only by the personality of a wine but also by its affinity to the glass shape. Bouquet can only develop properly in a limited temperature range. Low temperatures temper the intensity, whereas high temperatures promote mainly alcoholic fumes. Important as the shape of a glass is, it cannot function properly unless the wine is served at the correct temperature and in the right serving quantities (white wine: 2-3 oz., red wine 3-5 oz.) When the wine is poured, it immediately starts to evaporate and its aromas quickly fill the glass in layers according to their density and specific gravity. Consequently, the size and the shape of the glass can be fine-tuned to the typical aromas of a grape variety. The lightest, most fragile aromas are those reminiscent of flowers and fruit and these rise right up to the rim of the glass, while the middle fills with green vegetal scents and earthy, mineral components. The heaviest aromas, typically of wood and alcohol, remain at the bottom of the glass. Swirling the wine in the glass moistens a larger surface area, and this increases the evaporation and intensity of the aromas. But swirling does not encourage different elements of the bouquet to blend together. This in fact explains why the same wine in different glasses shows such an amazing variety of aromas. (The same wine can exhibit fruit aromas in one glass and green and vegetal notes in another). To eliminate this physical effect, you would have to shuffle the layers vertically by shaking the glass. Only then would you discover the same bouquet in all glasses. Experienced tasters rely on their olfactory talents more than their palates to determine the provenance of the wine or the grape variety in blind tastings. Very large glasses with a capacity of more than 25 ounces allow you to "nose" through the layers of bouquet by inhaling very gently and regularly for about ten seconds, penetrating down through the surface layers of fruit to the more earthy and alcoholic notes below.

Taste

Each individual is the sovereign of his palate. We cannot dictate rigid rules that override personal preferences. We can, however, give some valuable guidelines - and over the years the response of wine lovers to our suggestions has been overwhelmingly positive. Physical movements and adjustments of head and body are controlled subconsciously. The shape of the glass forces the head to position itself in such a way that you drink and do not spill. Wide, open glass shapes require us to sip by lowering the head, whereas a narrow rim forces the head to tilt backwards so that the liquid flows because of its gravity. This delivers and positions the beverage to different 'taste zones' of the palate. Gulping to quench one's thirst negates the benefits of the glass, since it means that flavor is only experienced in the aftertaste. Alcoholic beverages are consumed according to their strength in small to very small quantities at a time. This offers the opportunity to control the flow of the drink and consequently the initial contact with the tongue. The resulting nerve impulse is transmitted to the brain at a speed of 400/m sec, where it leaves a lasting first impression. In most cases we are disappointed if sweet fruit flavors are absent and tart components dominate the taste picture. When this happens, the tendency is to blame the wine rather than the inappropriate shape of the glass. This is precisely where a glass can make a dramatic difference in conveying a wine's message. Every wine has its own unique blend of qualities: fruit, acidity, minerals, tannin, alcohol that are based on the grape variety and the climate and soil on which it is grown. By studying the varietal characteristics, Riedel glasses are able to deliver a wine or spirit to the nose and palate in such a way that it can fully express its personality. The finish plays an important part in the overall impression and this too is strongly influenced by the design of the bowl. It will take time to recognize that a glass is not just a glass but an instrument of pleasure and enjoyment.

General Rules

The glasses are designed to emphasize a wine's harmony, not faults. Riedel has always viewed the wine glass as an instrument to bring together: the personality of the wine, smell, taste, appearance (including the beauty of the object). To fully appreciate the different grape varieties and the subtle characteristics of individual wines, it is essential to have a glass whose shape is fine-tuned for the purpose. The shape is responsible for the quality and intensity of the bouquet and the flow of the wine. The initial contact point depends on the shape and volume of the glass, the diameter of the rim, and its finish (whether it is a cut and polished or rolled edge) as well as the thickness of the crystal. As you put your wine glass to your lips, your taste buds are on the alert. The wine flow is directed onto the appropriate taste zones of our palate and consequently leads to different taste pictures. Once your tongue is in contact with the wine three messages are transmitted at the same time: temperature, texture and taste.

Shape

Riedel's guiding principal: The content determines the shape.

Size

The size of a glass is important, affecting the quality and intensity of aromas. The breathing space has to be chosen according to the "personality"of the wine or spirit. Red wines require large glasses, white wines medium-sized glasses, and spirits small ones (to emphasize the fruit character and not the alcohol).

Serving Quantities

The glass should not be over filled. Red wine: four to five ounces; White wine: three ounces; Spirits: one ounce.

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