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Mutineer Interview with Maximilian Riedel

Vitis Glasses

Vitis Glasses

Do you consider yourself to more of a businessman or an artist?

Intermediate. I am one of both because I am creator, I am a designer, but at the same time I run an operation, which is decent size brand that is well recognized.

In 2001 you created your first line of glassware, Riedel Restaurant, what inspired you to do this particular line?

Riedel Restaurant I developed based on me living in America and working with the restaurateurs.  I’ve met at the right time, the right people, which have been our customers for many years now.  When I first met them there was always an excuse why not to use Riedel glassware.  They said yes I have it a home, but for the restaurant trade I just cannot afford it or it’s not break resistant enough.  So I sat down and used this as an opportunity to create a glass, which was a copy of Vinium, which is our best selling retail glass. It has a shorter stem, a wider base and a non-lead glass.  I asked them point blank, ‘Gentleman would you agree to carry and showcase my glass and use them in your restaurants if I would come forward with a glass called Riedel Restaurant that covers your needs?’  They all agreed and since then they are all using Riedel glasses.

Martini O set

Martini O set

What’s it like working with your father George?

Either you love family business or you hate it, you know? Of course if your boss is your father it’s a bit different, but at the same time there is advantages, which you wouldn’t have.  You can always address something, sometimes in a different tone, but in the end a father always listens to his child and gives his comments.  I will say for us it’s a wonderful partnership because I am the youngster, the innovative person and my father has his routine, has the knowledge, has seen the world turn a couple more times than myself, so therefore I would say hand in hand we are a great team.

Why is decanting so important to you in Riedel’s vision?

Because I believe that every wine lover needs to have at least one decanter at home because every wine must be decanted.  We don’t have time to open wines two hours before we drink them.  If you talk to winemakers such as Christian Moueix who is the owner of Chateau Petrus and Dominus, or if you talk to Mike Mondavi, they all would recommend young wines to be opened up two hours before you drink it.  We all live in a busy environment. We all come home from work and we don’t have two hours to sit and wait until the wine opens and airates.  Therefore you should decant, especially young ones no matter if it is red or white, every wine should be decanted.

Maximilian Riedel

Talk about Riedel’s glassware for fine beverages beyond wine.

At Riedel we are the wine glass company, but at the same time we have a great portfolio of spirits glasses. For us spirits are always to be consumed neat.  You will never find the best cocktail glass at Riedel because we don’t believe in mixed beverages.  To us it is all about the beverage. Riedel makes the loudspeaker, we are the platform for every great spirit and wine.  It’s not something new for us to create spirits glasses, but the latest inventions and creations we’ve made together with, for example, the tequila producers of Mexico.  We have created a tequila glass, which is the national beverage of Mexico, but the idea is not to use tequila for mixed beverages or as a shot to get drunk.  It is to enjoy the aromas made out of the blue agave.  Even if it is aged such as Anejo, you need to have the right tool because from a little shot glass you can’t do so.  We did the same for Pisco, the national beverage of Peru, also to be consumed neat.  If it is single malt whisky, single batch bourbon or even cognac we have the right glass in our collection.  

Who are some glass artists who may or may not be beverage specific that have inspired you as a glass artist?

I would say that Baccarat is one of the great glassmakers, of course not in regards to wine friendly stemware. Dale Chihuly, one of our locals here in America, which is probably one of the most well-known glass artists is the world and many other smaller glass workshops.  We even have one in New York called Urban Glass where they give classes for people to try becoming a glassmaker.

What is your favorite glassware and fine beverage combination?

I am a pinot noir drinker and for me the Riedel burgundy glass, handmade from the Sommelier collection is probably the glass that I would use the most.  One reason is because it caters to pinot noir, my preferred grape variety, but at the same time to Champagne.  I believe strongly, and this is somewhat my crusade, that Champagne should always be consumed from a grape specific glass.  There are only three grape varieties in Champagne which are being cultivated, and if it is not a blanc de blanc then I would say that ninety-nine percent of Champagne is pinot noir based. Why not pour it into a burgundy glass from Riedel, and you will for the first time not only taste the beautiful aromas of champagne but also smell them?

I know that you are an avid skier; do you have a favorite mountain in the world?

You know what, I went to Aspen for the first time in my life this year and I would love to ski Aspen one day, but it’s just the altitude that I could not digest.  Next time I will come back with a lot of time for me to get used to the altitude because we don’t have mountains as high in Austria, believe it or not.

You’re also very into vintage automobiles, watches and art.  With all these interests being fundamentally artistic, have they inspired your glass art?

You know I would love to be inspired by them so at least I have an excuse for why I collect these beautiful objects of art and desire, but so far I have not had a moment of inspiration.  I do enjoy a beautiful automobile and a watch I would say is the only jewelry a man should wear.

What is something that people would never guess about you?

That is a very good question. Since I don’t have anything to hide from my friends or customers and I’m not sure how to answer it. I would say for me it is always wine related and I dream of owning my own vineyard one day.  I’m not sure if I would make it public because I would not want to compete with all my wonderful customers in the wine industry and I don’t want to be rated by anyone such as our friend Robert Parker, but I would love to have a little vineyard just to see how far I could take my knowledge. 

If you could enjoy a glass of wine with three people living or dead who are you going to have that glass of wine with?

You know my family was very much influenced by the Second World War.  Part of my family is Jewish and part of my family is German. Both families have lost family members of course, but I would love to have sat with the people supporting Europe to get out of the crisis and just listen to what those great minds of those days had to say.

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