Vintners’ tongues love glassmaker’s eye

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Vintners’ tongues love glassmaker’s eye

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Wine-tasting is a ritual, and the Koreans have added a new, important step to the pageantry: the search for the tiny Riedel logo at the bottom of the glass.
Riedel Glas was able to quickly secure its reputation and market position since it was first imported to Korea in 1996 by Dae Yoo International Co. Dae Yoo, incidentally, was one of the first Korean companies to import wine since the market opened in 1990.
Riedel Glas is an Austrian crystal-glass maker with an international reach; its new “O” series crystal glasses without stems, for use with either wine or sake, have in particular become an icon of innovative design and sophisticated dining since their release in 2004.
Behind the company’s growth is George Riedel (pronounced “Ghee-ork Reed-il”), the 10th-generation Riedel to come to the helm of the company. One of Riedel’s first successes after taking over the reigns of the family business in 1989 was to convince the leading American vintner, Robert Mondavi, that a wine glass can affect the taste of wine.
The result was an effect now famous as the “Mondavi moment”: the first time a wine connoisseur realizes their favorite wines have been transformed by quality crystalware.
Mr. Riedel was here last week to attend wine-tasting events in Korea and Japan. He participated in two tasting events for his company’s new Vinum and Sommeliers wine glasses at the Shilla Hotel and the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Seoul before flying to Osaka and Tokyo for events with the Italian vintner Angelo Gaja.
A lot has happened to Mr. Riedel in the two years since he last visited Korea. In an interview with the IHT-JoongAng Daily in Seoul last week, he mentioned how Riedel has acquired a glass company that can boost its production of crystal in order to keep up with demand.
The latest entry to Riedel’s global market, for instance, is New Zealand. “Wine glasses are a wine accessory,” he said. “We have a market anywhere in the world where wine is consumed. And wine consumption is on the increase around the world.”
He’s also preparing for personal changes: the lean and healthy-looking dapper glass-maker will be a grandfather in January.
Riedel’s business in Korea is also doing well: his Korean partner, A.K. Yoo, the president of Dae Yoo International, said Dae Yoo last year sold 1 billion won ($960,000) in Reidel glassware.
“[Mr. Riedel’s] energy and pioneering spirit, I find, are similar to those of Robert Park and Robert Mondavi, who are some of the most influential figures in global wine culture,” said Kim Young-il, the chairman of the Korean daily Sports Today. Mr. Kim sat next to Mr. Riedel at the Vinum Series tasting event. He said Riedel didn’t seem to have much consumer response when it was first introduced in Korea, but that it has now become an established part of the Korean wine scene.
“Now, Grand Cru drinkers in Korea seek Riedel,” Mr. Kim added. “If a dagi (a handmade ceramic tea cup) craftsman doesn’t drink tea, he can only make a practical cup. But because Mr. Riedel knows so much about wine, he can drink, match and develop sophisticated glasses that connoisseurs can recognize.”
So what product line do Koreans prefer?
Mr. Riedel said the classic Vinum and Sommelier Series have done well in Korea, as the new diamond-shaped wine glass series, “Extreme,” which was designed to match the younger, more vibrant taste of New World wines, has yet to catch on.


by Ines Cho

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