Riedel was the first glassware company to develop individual glasses for different wine styles and grape varieties. English sparkling wine has just got its very own.
When Riedel began to produce wine glasses with a difference half a century ago, people might have been scathing about the need for them but today their glasses are in, or have graced, the top tasting rooms and wineries across the world.
Maximilian Riedel is now at the helm of the business, the 11th generation of the same family who have set a high standard when it comes to wine glassware. He believes that, “The popularity of our specific glasses reflects the popularity of wines and that does not change greatly from one year to the next. However, since we first introduced Grape Varietal Specific Glass,” he continues, “exactly 50 years ago now, some of the wines have changed in their style – partly down to global warming and partly down to winemaking trends. For example, Riesling is most often enjoyed in a dry style now, with more alcohol than some years ago, when these wines were often lower in alcohol and slightly sweeter. Such a change means that our modern Riesling glasses are larger than our more mature collections, to reflect the changes in the wine and how the glass presents it.”
Starting the process of designing a new glass is complicated and not one that the company embarks upon lightly.
He explains, “We could have a team of designers, or a bank of computers. But we don’t design our glasses in that way. All of our glasses are designed in workshops, together with winemakers and other experts.” Riedel reveals, “It’s a process of trial and error, tasting the same wine from very many different glasses and eliminating them, one by one, until we reach a shape which the tasting panel agrees shows the wine as the winemaker intends.”
This year the company, under Maximilian’s guidance, have spotted a new opportunity. With the burgeoning popularity of English Sparkling wines, he believes that the category merits its own glass.
Riedel is not averse to using a Champagne Wine glass for English Sparkling wine. “It might not be a bad option,” he says, “but the English Wine Industry this year decided to explore all possible glass shapes to see which would be the best for their wines.”
In the making of this new glass more than 25 winemakers gathered across three different workshops and tasted very many wines from 12 pre-selected glass shapes. The wines were tasted blind, and the glasses were also blind (i.e., not identified in advance).
Maximilian explains, “The glass selection included all of the most popular Champagne wine glass shapes and also a Champagne flute. The panel ruled these out, based on sensory perception only – and agreed on a shape which was originally designed for Riesling.”
That shape will now become the English Sparkling Wine glass, but with one minor change he adds, “We will have a nucleation point added for improved mousse presentation. It was not a great surprise that the Riesling glass was chosen. It is a shape which shows freshness and acidity well and is designed for wines with low tannins.”