The head of Riedel Glass Austria explains the importance of pairing fine wine with good glasses
The other week I headed to the Connaught to meet George Riedel, head of Riedel Glass Austria. After a short – and rather incompetent on my side – conversation in German and the joys of Salzburg we sat down to talk wine, glasses and family business.
Wine at home
Riedel is reluctant to give me any hard and fast rules for serving wine at home. He feels consumers are clever enough to know what they want and like so won’t talk of any hard and fast rules when it comes to serving wine.
What he will tell me is that when serving wine at home it is a good idea to try that wine in a number of different glasses until you find one you think works best with that wine. The glass you serve your wine in can have a huge impact on the taste of the wine itself but the glass is something that people too often don’t think about when drinking wine.
We happily benchmark wines – we know which wines are better and judge them against one another – however, we rarely do this for the glasses. So it is very much worth taking some time to find some good glasses that compliment the wine you drink most often at home.
Wine in restaurants
When out in a restaurant, Riedel suggests that you don’t attempt to negotiate an overly long wine-list. Give the sommelier your budget, preferences and trust him to find you something suitable, after all this is their area of expertise.
They may also encourage you to try a wine you are not familiar with, which can be an interesting and often hugely informative exercise.
Working in Kufstein, a small town near Salzburg in Austria, Riedel is well and truly Austrian. He disagrees with my feeling that Austrian wines are often overlooked and points out that Austria is one of the top 10 wine consuming countries.
The Austrian climate lends itself to white wine production, boasting (he claims) arguably some of the best Riesling in the world. The famous Wiener Gemischter Satz, however, is under threat. Historically this wine is made from several different types of vines all grown in the same vineyard, however, as the vines reach the end of their lives they are now being replaced by just one variety.
As the land, and crop, is valuable it makes most economic sense to plant a variety that will be most successful on that area of land. For a producer, Gemischter Satz is hard to sell as you can’t easily rank it against other wines of the same type so sadly, it will most likely disappear from our cellars in the not too distant future.
Running a family business
Georg Riedel represents the 10th generation of this family business with his son, Max the 11th. When I asked him what it is like passing the business down through the generations he stopped me. He doesn’t see it is as passing down, rather passing it up.
Passing it up, you have to work against gravity, which more accurately reflects the work it takes to maintain a family business. You have to be 100% certain that you are leaving your business in safe hands and, thankfully, Georg Riedel tells me he has complete confidence in his son and the investment they have made in the company’s future.
On his desert island wine
This one takes some time. He eventually plumps for a good Pinot Noir before adding that he also likes a nice Cabernet. Why choose, when you can have them all I suppose!