Interview with Maximilian Riedel
I started learning the family trade at 12 years of age; by 18 I was fully committed to a career in the family business. I attended school locally in Kufstein, Austria so I could split my time between classes and work at the company’s headquarters. After my training close to home, I traveled to Paris to continue to learn the Riedel trade through our French importer and then at the age of 23 took the position of Executive VP of Riedel Crystal North America.
You are the 11th generation Riedel in the family business of glassmaking , in your opinion , what are the advantages and disadvantages of having your dad as your boss?
I have a great relationship with my father as he is my mentor and a person in the same industry as me. We share our passions for wine, food and food culture, so we have great synergies. Distance, of course always helps a relationship!
Would you say you have a better relationship with your father than he did with his father and even grandfather?
Definitely! I was fortunate to grow up in a time of no war and in the height of wine consumption. So in general, life as it presents itself now, is easier than it was 40-60 years ago.
Who do you admire on both your mum and dad’s side?
On both sides, my grandfathers. They were both exceptional men who survived wars and great loss, from which they had to start from scratch and rebuild their lives.
As a massive wine lover, to me, Riedel is synonymous with the best wine glasses and decanters. How is it that Riedel has succeed in reaching that status where others have failed?
We have succeeded in creating the best wine glasses and decanters because we are truly dedicated to what we believe in and what we design. All of our glasses are designed with the principle “form follows function” in mind. Each grape varietal has unique characteristics, which can only be enhanced by the right glass.
Tell our readers a little bit about the Riedel workshops….
When a grape varietal is brought to our attention that is in need of a grape specific glass shape, we pull together a panel of experts on that grape along with the Riedel team. We then sample that grape varietal in a number of existing glass shapes until we come to an agreed upon glass. In some cases an existing glass does not work, and we combine attributes from a number of different glasses…and a new Riedel glass shape is born!
The “O” range has turned out to be a global success and was of course your baby, this range was a result of a personal need of yours for a stemless glass? I’d imagine your grand father was alive at the time, what was his reaction and tell us what prompted the creation in the first place?
Yes, I created the O line when I was living in an apartment in Hoboken with little cabinet space…I needed something stackable, so I had the idea to get rid of the stem. My grandfather, being very traditional, did not encourage my new design. He felt the stem was a crucial part of the wine glass and did not support my idea to simplify.
Since the fine wine boom in Asia a few years ago, have your sales in Hong Kong and China grown in proportion ?
Our expansion into China was inspired by a visit my father took in 2004, where he realized the rapid growing potential for the business. The consumers in this market are hungry for wine and food culture. We have since opened 40 retail shops all of which are profitable.
In your line of work and your position within the company, you clearly have to have a good balance between being creative and operationally making sound business decisions.
How do you keep that balance, and how do you keep the creative spark alive and what happens to that spark when you one day get that call “son, its time for you to take over”?
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