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Whitewall‘s Fall 2014 Fashion Issue is out, and in it you’ll find an interview with Maximilian Riedel, the CEO of the go-to upscale wineglass brand Riedel. Riedel was kind enough to give us an exclusive tasting from the new Black Series Collector’s Edition. Here’s the story:
CEO of Riedel
By Eiman Aziz
Since its beginnings in northern Bohemia, the Riedel Wine Glass Company has represented the epitome of crystal glassmaking as high art, engaging new varietal-specific wine glassware, premier Sommelier collections, limited editions, stunning decanters, and even the perfect glass for Coca-Cola.
Whitewall had the exclusive opportunity to taste from The Black Series Collector’s Edition over lunch at The Modern in New York City and talk with CEO Maximilian Riedel, who represents the 11th generation of the glassmaking dynasty. The charismatic CEO reflected on the future, obsessive shopping, and his inspiration to continue the 300-year-old legacy around the world.
WHITEWALL: The Sommelier Black Series Collector’s Edition commemorates the anniversary of Riedel Crystal’s groundbreaking Sommeliers series with a limited edition in new attire—black. How did that come about for you?
MAXIMILIAN RIEDEL: The Black Series is a very emotional piece for my family. It celebrates 40 years of the very first gourmet and wine-friendly glass line ever introduced. It was a family process, to get the glass to where it is now, in terms of functionality, aesthetics, and consumer appreciation. So we thought, “Let’s do a party!” But parties are forgotten—and words are spoken and forgotten. So I thought, why not, in homage, create a glass line?
WW: Riedel has an entire factory dedicated to the production of this particular line, where you produce your handmade decanters, in Kufstein, Austria. Was it a difficult process to achieve the Black?
MR: The handmade glasses carry a high degree of iron oxides to obtain the black color. It takes a considerable amount of skill to use black glass to obtain the same shape, because you have a much more narrow timeframe to blow it; the glass transforms from liquid to solid much faster. We only have a very few skilled glassmakers who actually work with black glass.
WW: What does this personally mean to you to have this series?
MR: I like to shop—and I’m also a big collector, and car enthusiast. I like limited editions myself. So I wanted to create something very limited. Limited, because of availability, number one. Limited, because of its price point and usage. You cannot use these glasses every day. But when it’s on the table, guess what? Our neighbors are looking at this table right now and they will see your glass. [Riedel points to the sophisticated lunch crowd at The Modern’s elegant dining room overlooking the museum’s sculpture garden] They will completely not look at our company. They will look at this glass, because it’s so unique.
WW: There is a certain obsession when it comes to defining a collector. Whether you’re collecting stamps, or the Black Series Sommelier Collection. How limited is limited?
MR: Very good question. I was the first in the Riedel family who came up with a ”limited edition” although challenged by my father. I came up with a couple of decanters in a certain color scheme, that were signed by me, and numbered, 1 out of 100, 2 out of 100. And he said, “It’s going to fail, and people are going to be upset that they couldn’t get it.”
It was a major success. Even Kobe Bryant got one. Some of them auctioned though they were just coming to the market. I’m kind of a black sheep. I go against rules and regulations. I have to, otherwise we don’t grow.
WW: You continue to write your family history, introducing unique perspectives in the wineglass world, from conceiving the famous “O” stemless wineglass series to designing serpentine decanters providing the ultimate wine experience in aroma, balance, and taste. What is the key to your drive?
MR: I know what motivates me—it’s inner motivation. My design heroes are my grandfather Claus Josef Riedel, and my father, Georg J. Riedel. What they have put in the market, nobody has done before—not only aesthetically, but also the functionality behind the glass. That’s what I live off, that’s what I feed off of.
I was never the best in school, because I didn’t care. I wasn’t motivated. I can’t stand authority.
WW: What are your current projects, and what do you see as the future of Riedel?
MR: I want to strengthen the heart of Riedel. The main focus now is to open subsidiaries in Latin America and the continent of Africa. We are in the midst of producing soda glasses, water glasses, tea glasses, and coffee glasses that will do the exact same as our wineglasses—enhance the aromas for nonalcoholic beverages. With these glasses, we can go to the Middle East and any other culture without issues. If that goes well, the future is bright. On top of that, I definitely want to explore other industries. I don’t want to be nailed to tabletop. I want to move away from the table.