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How Everyone’s Favorite Glassware Is Made

Meet the CEO of famed Austrian brand Riedel

Maximilian Riedel, the thirty-something CEO and president of Riedel Crystal, is the eleventh generation of his family to oversee the day-to-day operations of the brand. After a stint living in the United States and expanding the North American market, Riedel resettled back in Kufstein, Austria, where his company is headquartered and which boasts a state-of-the-art factory, store and shrine to the brand’s elegant glassware.

We sat down with the charming businessman to discuss the brand’s heritage and future and asked him to select some of his favorite pieces to show us from its plentiful archives.

“This vase from 1888 depicts a male peacock and was created by the firm Josef Riedel, a predecessor to Riedel Crystal, whose owner was known as the Glass King of the Jizera Mountains in Bohemia. At the time, the demand for decorated crystal was booming, and my ancestors were successfully exporting glassware and decorative pieces like this throughout Europe, North Africa and the U.S.”

“These vases were made between 1915 and 1935, and they represent the period when my great grandfather, Walter Riedel, came to run the Riedel factories in Bohemia. Following World War I, the glass industry saw a boom in demand for decorative glassware, and these are a great blend of Art Nouveau style with elements from the Art Deco movement.”

“The piece I am presenting to the Director of the Museum of Glass and Jewelry in the Czech Republic represents Riedel’s current technology. The Mamba Double Magnum decanter pictured here is mouth-blown and free-formed by hand in our Kufstein, Austria headquarters.”

“Until the 1940s, my ancestors produced their glassware in the mountains of Bohemia, in what is now the Czech Republic. Their very first factory, founded by Riedels in 1775, closed in the late 1800s, but its remains can still be found in a national park in the town of Kristianov. I visited it for the first time two years ago, and was amazed to find that glass pieces from the first factory can still be found on the forest floor.”

“After opening the Kufstein, Austria factory after World War II, my grandfather, Claus Riedel, began experimenting with new glassware shapes, and was the first to discover that an egg-shaped bowl enhanced the aromas and flavors of wine. His 1958 design shown here, the Sommeliers Burgundy Grand Cru glass, was the first ‘wine-friendly’ glass in the world.”

“In 2004, I left my first mark on the company when I introduced the ‘O’ series, the first varietal-specific stemless glasses. They were inspired by my life in New York—and its lack of space—and became the bestselling series in company history.”

“The Riedel ‘O’ series is produced by machine in our factories in Weiden and Amberg, Germany. Here, a Vinum Viognier Glass is fire-polished on our state-of- the-art glass-blowing machine.”

“In 2015, we introduced the Superleggero Series, an ultra-thin collection of mouth-blown glassware. In the tradition of our handmade Sommeliers Series, the Superleggero collection is made by Riedel’s master glassblowers in Kufstein. This Champagne Wine Glass is a new shape I developed because champagne’s complex aromas and flavors demanded a larger bowl for maximal enjoyment.”