Georg J Riedel, 10th-generation owner of Riedel, the Austrian leader in fine crystal glassware, served as CEO of the company from 1987 until 2013. His personal philosophy and vision for the business, family-owned since 1756, are one and the same, he says, noting that “I am a person who lives in the here and now, rather than looking back.” Rich in tradition, the European glass manufacturer, with its 1,200 employees, annually produces some 55 million glassware products. Through its proprietary sales companies in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia, the family business has a market presence in 125 countries. “Our commitment to quality requires constant innovation; therefore, we regularly invest in the modernization of our production facilities, creating a significant number of new jobs in various markets,” Riedel explains.
Based on a long-standing ethos of forward thinking, the company is guided in this philosophy by the tenth and eleventh generations of the Riedel family, Georg Riedel and his son Maximilian Riedel, who took over the company in July 2013. Georg remains owner and advisor. This approach began in 1956, when the ailing Tiroler Glashütte became a company of international standing, thanks to the success of a fantastic product, first conceived by Claus J Riedel (9th generation), whose creativity and sense of form led to the creation of an ultra-thin glass, which allows the wine to develop its true taste.
From 1987 Georg served as co-CEO alongside his father Claus before taking over as sole Chief Executive in 1994. In this position, Georg led the company to achieve great success, using his operational expertise and economic prowess. Working closely with his father and a team of experts, he vastly expanded the company’s wine-friendly and varietal-specific glass collections. Realizing that wine-friendly glasses should highlight the best expression of wine as determined by winemakers, Georg Riedel approached the world’s leading winemakers, including Robert Mondavi and Angelo Gaja, to enlist their senses in creating the ideal glassware designs. Through various innovations in production technology, Riedel succeeded in expanding the range of hallmark handmade Riedel Sommeliers glasses. In 1986, he introduced the benchmark Vinum glassware series, the first machine-made varietal-specific fine crystal glasses. The Vinum series, with its affordable price point helped the company reach a new audience. This laid the foundation for the brand’s worldwide success and international following. Of his contribution to the company’s growth, Riedel has said “The Riedels are equipped with luck, but we also rely on intelligence, diligence and passion.”
Georg Riedel has advocated his completely new approach to wine glasses on a global scale; function first, followed by beauty, executed with unparalleled perfection. He explains, “We have developed tastings around the world; we educate approximately 40,000 people each year using wines from every region, where we demonstrate how the right glass enhances the experience of wine drinking.” His decades of experience in wine tasting and keen understanding of design have taught him how best to bring out the expression of a wine’s various flavor components for maximum enjoyment. In his philosophy and quest, Riedel’s love and passion for wine have made him an expert in the subject, respected by top winemakers and sommeliers around the world.
Wine critics agree that Riedel produces a perfect glass for every wine lover. Leading critics Robert M. Parker and Michel Bettane have both been convinced of the crucial importance of the glass to a wine. In 2008, Time magazine praised the Austrian glassware family for “contributing more to the delight of wine lovers in the past 50 years than almost any winemaking dynasty.”
Riedel joined the family company as an accountant in 1973, and from 1994 until 2013 served as Chief Executive. For over 40 years, he has travelled the world to share his message, developing new markets and ensuring the company’s solid economic foundation.
He is driven by his family’s legacy and the responsibilities of an executive. “The Riedels lost everything after World War II and needed to once again rebuild from the ground up. My predecessors set their minds to it, with luck on their side, looking to the future and acting accordingly,” he explains. “From this, I derive my sense of duty. I’m not afraid of anything, except failure. I must not be last in the history of the company, and even more importantly, I do not want to lose the company’s reputation. My inner critic will never allow me to be satisfied – it is always pushing me further.”
In 2013 Georg Riedel opened new areas of innovation, applying his knowledge of form and function to non-alcoholic beverages and beginning a new era of product development opportunities for the brand. At the invitation of the Coca-Cola Company, and in close collaboration with Coca-Cola’s Atlanta based flavor experts, Riedel conducted a series of glassware workshops to create a finely-tuned, specific shape to enhance the enjoyment of the world’s most iconic beverage, classic Coca-Cola. Employing the same blueprint for flavor enhancement, Riedel applied his tasted-tested principles to hot beverages by Nespresso, the global coffee leader based in Lausanne, Switzerland. Aided by the expertise of the company’s top coffee authorities, he developed two machine-blown shapes for Nespresso, which amplify the distinct flavors of the coffee leader’s popular espresso blends.
On his vision for the future of the company, now managed by Maximilian Riedel, Georg offers that “it’s a dream of mine to continue to develop drinking vessels for non-alcoholic beverages, which likewise create memorable experiences for an even broader range of consumers. I envisage vessels not only for high quality coffee, but complex teas and other soft drinks. The sensuality of taste shows that designs of Riedel-caliber can be made for these beverages.”
The Riedel family’s prominence in Central European history – the Bohemian line dates to 1673 – also shapes Riedel’s personality and commitment to continuity and perseverance. “At age 30 I began to run. I have completed ten marathons and now regularly undertake mountain hiking expeditions,” he explains. “They form a fundamental enrichment of my life. There I find the necessary calm to relax and think through things.”
Riedel has been married to his wife, Eva, since 1973 when they met during his time as a student in Vienna. He is a dedicated father to his son Maximilian and daughter Laetizia, and grandfather to her two sons. In them, the twelfth generation, he proudly sees the future of the glassware dynasty.
Georg Riedel was born in 1949 in Innsbruck, Austria. Fittingly, it was a wonderful vintage year for Bordeaux.
1973 Joins the company, establishing a financial control system
1979 – 2011 Creation of the subsidiary companies in the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Germany, Japan and China
1986 Introduces Vinum collection, which becomes Riedel’s best-selling series
1996 Decanter magazine nominates Georg Riedel Decanter Man of the Year
2004 Acquires the German glass company Nachtmann, together with the Spiegelau wine accessories brand, merging under the name “Riedel Glass Works”
2006 Award of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria
2007 Award of Honour by the State of Tyrol
2009 Wirtschaftsblatt, the Vienna daily business newspaper, names him Entrepreneur of the Year
2011 Opens subsidiaries and franchises in Japan and China
2013 Becomes President Emeritus of Riedel Crystal, names Maximilian J Riedel President