Dave Trott
Jan 10, 2020

Another glass?

The story of the man who convinced the world different types of wine deserved different glasses.

Who needs all these different glasses?
Who needs all these different glasses?

Most of us have different types of wine glasses at home – why is that?

If asked, we’ll probably say we need different glasses for different kinds of wine.

We might say red wine needs a wider glass for the fuller aroma, while white wine needs a smaller, narrower glass for the more delicate flavour.

That’s what we honestly believe about different sorts of glasses.

That the shapes have evolved over time, and people always drank different wines from the best glasses for that particular wine.

But that’s not the truth – it’s clever marketing.

We can learn a lot from Austrian glassmaker Claus Riedel.

Because, unlike most marketing people, he understood the difference between talking to "triallists" and talking to "current users".

Most of us kneejerk into talking to "triallists" without giving it a second’s thought.

We list what’s good about our brand or product and look for new consumers – people who haven’t tried it yet.

But what if the market has reached saturation, especially with a consumer durable: something people don’t buy often?

How do you grow a market where everyone already has what you make and doesn’t need more of it?

Riedel was the first person to see an opportunity in talking to that market.

Until the 1950s, most people had just one set of glasses and they used them for whatever drinks guests wanted: white wine, red wine etc.

Riedel was the first to introduce the concept of different glasses for different wines.

He said a single set won’t do – you can’t serve different wines from the same glasses.

So, in 1958, he launched the Burgundy Grand Cru glass at the Brussels World’s Fair.

It was designed to "enhance the flavours and aromas of the Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo grape variety, specifically for Burgundy, Barolo and Barbaresco wines".

A glass made specially for a particular wine was a new concept.

It won the Gold Medal and was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Then, in 1961, Riedel introduced the first full line of wine glasses created for different wines.

And in 1973, Riedel introduced the Sommeliers Series, the world’s first gourmet glasses.

Now, on Riedel’s website, it says: "Claus Riedel is best known for creating grape variety-specific glassware designed to enhance types of wine based on specific properties of individual grape varieties. He was among the first glassware experts in history to recognise that the taste of wine is affected by the shape of the glass, and is credited with first discovering and developing variety-specific glassware shapes and bringing these glasses to the consumer market."

Riedel was in charge of the family company that had been in business since 1756.

It must have been very hard to give up being a glassware company to become a specialist "wine glass company", especially as different wine glasses didn’t even exist.

But Riedel saw it as an opportunity to stop competing with every other glassware company.

If he could make people want different wine glasses, he’d have that market to himself.

But first, he would have to build the market for different wine glasses.

He’d have to sell different types of glasses to people who thought one set was enough.

He’d have to explain why one set wasn’t nearly enough.

People love to believe wine is esoteric, so the more inscrutable he could make it, the better.

Riedel grew the market by adding a whole new level of complexity.

By allowing people to demonstrate being part of the cognoscenti.

He built a new market on the back of the glass market that existed, by reinventing wine drinking.

And that is genuine creative thinking.

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Blindness and How to Cure It, Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three.

Campaign UK

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