The Riedel Difference
Beautiful Bouquets Bloom With the Right Stems
The Emerald Coast has enjoyed a long love affair with wine. Locals and visitors alike are spoiled with the abundance of unbeatable restaurants that carry award-winning wine libraries often recognized by Wine Spectator magazine. Wine events and tastings are held regularly throughout the region, and local vineyards, such as the Chautauqua Winery, produce varietals with names like Sugar Sands White and Sunset Red. With wine at the centerpiece for so many Emerald Coast celebrations, the wine glass is earning an important seat at the table.
The Riedel Discovery
Hundreds of wine seminar participants have had the pleasure of experiencing the “aha” moment at one or both of the local Riedel wine seminars, presented by the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation (DCWAF). In February 2011, Maximillian Riedel, 11th generation glassmaker, featured varietal specific glasses for white wines. In October, the legendary 10th generation glassmaker Georg Riedel (Max’s father) presented Riedel’s signature stemware for reds.
The Riedels have been engaged in the art of glassmaking for more than 250 years. The family dynasty began in the late 17th century with Johann Christoph Riedel, a glassmaker from Bohemia. For centuries, the company produced a wide range of glass goods, ranging from windowpanes and chandelier parts to colored glass beads and wine glasses. In 1958, ninth generation glassmaker, Claus Riedel, laid the groundwork for the Riedel legacy: varietal specific glasses.
“It was a series of lucky discoveries,” Georg Reidel, president of Riedel Crystal, said of his father’s finding. “Before this discovery, glasses were flared. From the 1920s through the 1940s, consumer taste dictated ornate cuts and engraved glasses, showing the owner’s wealth. But there was a disadvantage; the glass did not relate to the wine.”
Through the discovery process, Claus Riedel found that an egg-shaped glass captured aromas. This finding led to the development of the Burgundy Grand Cru, which he showcased at the 1958 World Exhibition in Brussels, winning a gold medal.
Georg Riedel, a 10th generation wine glassmaker, was born in 1949 in Innsbruck, Austria. Fittingly, it was a wonderful vintage year for Bordeaux. The personal and professional philosophies of Riedel’s chief executive are one and the same: “I am a person who lives in the here and now, rather than looking back.”
Over the next decade, Riedel continued experimenting and eventually introduced the Sommeliers collection, the company’s first varietal specific line of stemware. From there, Georg Riedel began developing mouth-blown glass configurations to enhance the flavor of a wide variety of wines. Today, the wine glass company features nearly 150 stemware designs for specific grape varietals.
“Glass design by trial and error means fine tuning the shape for wine’s specific qualities,” said Georg Riedel. “The glass becomes the wine’s ‘loudspeaker’ to transmit the message of the beverage to the human senses.”
Decades later, Riedel stemware has become the gold standard. With Georg Riedel at the helm, the company continues to serve “wine lovers” and the wine industry by providing the tools to unlock the most elusive characteristics of a wine.
The Riedel Difference
Georg Riedel’s visit to the area last fall afforded those along the coast a special moment with the native Austrian, renowned in the wine world as an engineer, designer and businessman. Armed with a charming demeanor and accented English, he greeted more than 100 wine enthusiasts in the Azalea Ballroom at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort as part of the Destin Charity Wine Auction seminar series. Riedel took the stage in a dark business suit and engaged the group effortlessly with his quick-witted knowledge, humble manner and warm blue eyes.
Riedel began the seminar with one bold statement: “I am here to complicate your wine-enjoying life.” And with that, he opened the audience to the complex sensations of smell and taste that could be experienced by simply rotating liquids in various glasses.
“We are the toolmakers,” said Riedel. “We are at the service of the wine industry, creating the tools for wines to perform beautifully.”
Riedel went on to explain that the tip of the tongue is highly sensuous while the back of the tongue is dormant, and other areas of the tongue reflect sour, sweet, salty and bitter tastes. Each glass is designed to complement the wine’s unique “DNA” and character profile. With each trial, the audience learned that when a vessel meets its perfect mate, it romances her by opening a full bouquet, her layers beautifully exposed, creating a complex and vivid smell-taste picture.
“Get intimate with the wine, allow the wine to unveil all of its secrets,” urged Riedel.
Cheers to Local Celebrations
Here along the coast, there are many opportunities to celebrate a love of wine. This spring, Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation (DCWAF), which connects wine enthusiasts to help children in need, hosts Wine Party 2012–Campaign for Kids, April 27–28. The event features 13 nationally-recognized chefs and more than 20 world-class vintners, including honorary vintners Spottswoode, Duckhorn and Joseph Phelps. On April 27, 12 patron dinners pair chefs with celebrity vintners in exquisite homes along the Emerald Coast. The dinners will be followed the next day by the Reserve Tasting and Auction, with all participating vintners pouring wines and the area’s top restaurants showcasing their culinary talents.
During the same weekend, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort hosts the 26th Annual Sandestin Wine Festival, April 26–29. The indulgent weekend of all things wine includes four days of wine tastings, seminars and dinners. Featuring more than 600 wines and 80 vineyards within the picturesque Village of Baytowne Wharf, the Grand Tasting includes a culinary pavilion with mouth-watering delicacies to complement the weekend of pouring, swirling and sipping.
“We are honored to partner with so many different groups to bring world-class wine and culinary events to the Emerald Coast,” said DCWAF former president Todd Vucovich. “Last year, our auction weekend raised more than $1 million for local children’s charities. Those dollars contributed to healthcare, housing, food and counseling for more than 3,000 local children.”
In addition to coordinating the Sandestin Wine Festival, Chan’s Wine World keeps the celebration of wine going year-round with regular wine tastings and special events. On Fridays from 5 to 7 p.m., there is a wine tasting at one or more of the three locations. The tasting series features a variety of themes such as “A Taste of Gold,” which featured 10 gold medal winners from the Sandestin Wine Festival.
“An informed customer is the best customer,” said John Morris, wine educator with Chan’s Wine World. “We spend a lot of time on education with customers and staff.”
Morris offers a five-part wine education series through Northwest Florida State College with an entire class dedicated to proper stemware.
The Riedel family pioneered varietal specific stemware, but Georg Riedel cautioned, “If you don’t have the right company, nothing tastes good.”