- by Chris Mercer
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My goal is to make Champagne flutes 'obsolete', says Maximilian Riedel
Speaking to decanter.com in London, Maximilian Riedel, who is chief executive of Riedel Crystal, said that flute-shaped glasses present Champagne as one-dimensional, flooring drinkers' ability to appreciate the full range of aromas and taste profiles on offer.
'It is my goal that the flute will be obsolete by the day that I pass away,' he said. There is a business angle to this, of course. 'Champagne is a playground with no end', he said, citing the potential for every house's Grande Cuvee to have a specific glass assigned to it.
As regular readers will be aware, tall, thin flutes have come to dominate Champagne quaffing for several decades, replacing the shallow, bowl-shaped 'coupe' - at least partially by virtue of their ability to maintain more fizz. More recently, so-called tulip glasses, with a range of bulging midriffs, have gained popularity for some vintage and more premium Champagnes.
Riedel as a company has already done a lot of work with several Champagne houses. Dom Perignon's chef de cave, Richard Geoffroy, is another fervent critic of the flute and advocates Riedel's Vinum XL Pinot Noir glass for DP Rose.
Still, Maximilian Riedel's vision for Champagne must share headspace with other plans that he has for the company he runs alongside his father, Georg, and which is this year celebrating 40 years since the launch of its first varietal-specific glasses, the Sommelier Series.
Commenting more generally on future plans, he said the company has several new decanters in the development pipeline. 'We are going to introduce a decanter that plays a tune,' he said, of one of the launches planned.
Next year marks the tenth anniversary of Riedel's first decanter, the Cornetto, and the subsequent range of elaborately-shaped glassware is something Maximilian takes pride in overseeing personally, having grown up in a company run by his father. Maximilian's favourite is the Eve, with its long, snaking neck and coiled base.
Who comes up with the ideas? 'All the designs are coming from Riedel,' the 36-year-old said. 'We don't hire a designer, we do it based on our feeling. Nothing has ever been discontinued - that's an accomplishment.'
Another avenue for Riedel innovation will be to focus on greater variety within specific grape types.
The group has already done work on high and low altitude Cabernet Sauvignon in California, and has taken particular interest in the variations of Pinot Noir emanating from key regions, such as Oregon, Burgundy and New Zealand. 'Pinot Noir is special, because the styles are so different,' said Riedel.
Is he also tempted to get involved with those who advocate matching wine with specific mineral waters, as well as food? Although water tasting is a common starting point for anyone undergoing the Riedel tasting education for the first time, it appears there are limits.
'People who match water with wine have a lot of time on their hands,' Riedel said.