To many, the container from which wine is consumed may be of little importance, with some people drinking from anything – a mug, a cup, a kiddy pool, and, in the event of an accidental spill, a throw rug. However, to the serious wine drinker the container from which wine is consumed is of almost as much importance as the wine itself. This is because the shape and type of a wineglass can alter the flavors, balance, and finish of wine. A seemingly magical feat with a scientific base, this concept was first poured into the minds of wine consumers by Claus J. Riedel.
The Riedel tale of glassmaking, with pivotal chapters authored by Claus, began in 1678 in north Bohemia, a historical region of the western Czech Republic. A name that in present day is often defined as being artistic, unconventional, and inventive, Bohemia was a fitting place for the Riedel legacy to begin, laying the groundwork for Claus Riedel’s innovative way of thinking.
Born in 1925 to an Austrian family, Riedel opened his first glass factory with his father in Kurfstein, Austria in the mid 1950s. Setting out to design a glass that consumers could wrap around their fingers as well as their taste buds, Claus was determined to produce something that wouldn’t merely hold wine, but hold the joy of the wine drinking experience. He did this by taking a wine glass back to its basics, and back to its essence, producing thin, long, undecorated glasses. After soliciting the help of experienced wine tasters, Claus discovered that wine consumed from the glasses he designed was generally enjoyed to a greater degree. With this, he became the father of a wineglass revolution.
In 1958, Claus made his way into both wine lore and the history books by inventing the Sommeliers Burgundy Cru stem, the world’s largest wineglass that now resides in the New York Museum of Modern Art. The design of this glass was based heavily on the Bauhaus Design Principle, an ideology epitomizing functional, simple design that came about during the Bauhaus Design Movement in post-World War I Germany.