If you've ever been to a fine dining restaurant, and especially one that focuses on wine, you've probably encountered a Riedel glass. The Austrian glass company is practically synonymous with wine glasses, having designed and produced crystal glasses for every specific wine you can name — Chardonnay, Bordeaux, Syrah, Riesling, Burgundy, Tempranillo, etc.
But when I read that the company had just come out with a Coca-Cola-specific glass, I just about spit out my tea, laughing. At first I thought it was a parody. But no, when I talked to Georg Riedel (he was at the Atlanta gift fair at the time), he was dead serious.
In fact, it's a commission he'd only dreamed about getting.
OK, so how does a behemoth like Coca-Cola connect with a small artisanal glass factory in rural Austria?
It happened like this. In 2013, Coca-Cola approached Riedel to see if he'd be interested in creating a double-walled glass, something Riedel had no capability of producing, given the technology required. Riedel told them that, but said he would be very interested in producing a glass specifically for Coca-Cola.
"It was always a dream of mine 25 years ago when I started the wine glass campaign," he explains. "I always told journalists that it would be my dream to create a glass for the most popular beverage in the world."
The process, he told me, was the same as when he designs a glass for a specific grape or wine. He brings in a team of people who have the most intimate knowledge about the beverage and they taste it in different-shaped glasses, honing in on the one that enhances its experience.
For Coca-Cola, Riedel convened about 20 panelists. "I said we'll need some Coca-Cola. We will need a lot of Coca-Cola.
"At the end, hands down, the panel selected the same glass as showing the Coca-Cola best," said Riedel. And then his design team took the parameters of that glass — its size, the shape of the bowl, the rim diameter — and, integrating that into the DNA of Coca-Cola's contour bottle, came up with a design."
The contour bottle he means is the original designed in 1914 and first used in 1915, almost 100 years ago. "It has a different look from today's contour bottle. It's much wider at the shoulders, narrower at the bottom." And that's what he wanted to express in his Coca-Cola glass.
OK, Coke-fanatics, listen up: The Riedel Coca-Cola glass sells in a two pack for $30, or a single pack for $20.
What's next? Pepsi? Sprite? Dr Pepper? The list goes on.