Apparently “Riedel” Is Actually Pronounced “A**hole” (Glassware Company Bullies Wine Blogger)

Vinted on August 11, 2015 binned in wine news

Riedel assware

Last week Riedel, the Austrian glassware company that seems tailor-made for the anally-retentive (the company produces glasses designed specifically for different wine styles and individual varietal wines, and even for different types of water), threatened wine blogger (and friend of 1WD) Ron Washam, better known within the wine biz as The Hosemaster of Wine.

Apparently, Georg Riedel didn’t take kindly to Washam’s satirical take on the company, published recently on MW Tim Atkin’s website. While Atkin was probably more vulnerable (due to the archaic UK laws regarding publishing), Washam was likely relatively “safe,” though of course subject to fast-mounting – and surely unwanted – legal bills in his defense.

From Atkin’s standpoint, the matter has been settled. Presumably in relation to the settlement, Atkin added the following preamble to the original article:

In this piece, US-based wine writer Ron Washam pokes fun at Riedel, the wine glass company, a brand that I respect and use personally. This is a piece of satirical writing. No offence is meant to be caused either to Georg Riedel or to his business. Please note that no interview with Georg Riedel took place in the creation of this article and that all quotes are fictitious and do not represent the personal views or business practices of Georg Riedel or his company. Tim Atkin

But as a company Riedel has, as of the time of this writing, not answered for what I would consider its blatantly asinine public behavior relating to this matter. Not only did they level the threat of legal action on Washam, but Riedel also removed complaints about / references to the incident posted by visitors to their Facebook page (I know this to be the case, because at least one of mine was removed).

[ Insert plaintive, exacerbated sigh here. ]

There are so many problems with this, it’s difficult for me to calm down long enough to know where to begin. Let’s start here: Riedel is way off base in challenging Hosemaster’s satire. From their letter to Washam, as reprinted on his website:

“… there is nothing satirical or funny about the Article…”

[ Insert incredulous What. The. HELL?!?? here ]…

Here’s a snippet from “the Article” to which Riedel’s lawyers referred:

“You see,” Georg continues, “the wine business is a very sexist business. As it should be. As it needs to be. For the most part, only men are foolish enough to spend a lot of money on extravagant bottles of wine, ornate shrines to themselves they call wine cellars, and wildly expensive and unnecessary accoutrements, like specialized wine glasses…”

Funny is a matter of opinion. Satire, largely, is not. It should be (insanely, ridiculously) obvious to even a casual observer that the above fictional quote is intended to be satirical. Whether or not Riedel or anyone else feels it is a poor attempt at satire is not relevant to the article actually being satirical.

By claiming that Washam’s article is not satirical, Riedel was essentially laying a claim of libel and defamation against Washam and Atkin. I am not a lawyer (though I had worked for lawyers for many years, and should have absorbed more about it than I did), but I do know that it would be extremely difficult for Riedel to prove that in the U.S.

Of course, it’s likely that Riedel and their lawyers already knew all of that, which in this case suggests that they are acting like bullies at best, and outright assholes at worst.

Now, before you get up in my mix and tell me that it’s easy for me to lambaste Riedel when my brand hasn’t been the target of The Hosemaster’s satirical ire, all I can tell is that my brand was the target of The Hosemaster’s satirical ire, and I found it hilariously amusing. But had I hated it, my personal reaction likely wouldn’t have been solid legal grounds for threatening a lawsuit, and certainly wouldn’t have been solid moral grounding for bullying the author.

Riedel’s handling of this is a PR shit-storm in the process of dropping its full, toilet-clogging, putrid load. If Atkin’s preamble was all that was required to make this right from Riedel’s perspective, why, why, WHY THE FUCK was that not handled privately with Atkin? Because the wine world needs to look even worse to the general consuming public?!??

A company such as Riedel ought to have seen the negative PR outcomes coming from a looooooong way off, folks. If you ever wanted a lesson in how not to respond to a brand crisis, Riedel has just provided you with one.

The wine world is simply too big, and far too competitive, to give your hard-earned money to companies that are acting like bullying assholes. Thanks, but no thanks, Riedel, for doing your part to make the wine world look even more like a panoply of stuck-up douchebaggery.

[ Insert the sound of wine glasses being smashed in frustration here. ]

Cheers!

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    Comments

  • Todd - VT Wine Media


    I’ve been wondering what’s going on over at Riedel since starting to see their overstock show up at TJ Maxx in the last couple of years… Am still a bit partial to Stölzle ;)

    • 1WineDude


      Todd – I guess I’m fond of non-assholes :).

      Here’s something from a private correspondence sent to me today in response to this post (the author shall remain anonymous for now); I haven’t confirmed it, and I was not there, and I haven’t asked Riedel for comment, etc., so take this with the requisite grain of alt. But if it’s true it is telling, I think:

      “he [Georg] once WALKED OUT of a wine dinner that I was hosting [with] Georg himself as the guest speaker, because not every chair in the restaurant was facing him.”

      That’s douchebaggery right there, plain and simple.

  • mjgraves (@mjgraves)


    Let us then decree that Riedel will not not replaced with its like as we go forward.

    • 1WineDude


      MJ – I think you’re saying to replace your Riedel glasses with those produced by another manufacturer? If so, I agree…

  • Richard Auffrey (@RichardPF)


    If the Hosemaster’s article had only been posted in the U.S., I doubt Reidel would have threatened legal action as their lawyers would have understood there was little they could do against satire under U.S. law. However, posting it on Atkins site, which is in the UK, opens a can of worms as UK law doesn’t protect satire like the U.S. Riedel had a potentially valid legal claim against Atkins, which is why he apologized and clarified matters on his site. We need to understand that the laws of other countries don’t always provide the same protections as US law.

    • 1WineDude


      Richard – I am fully aware of the differences, they are referenced in my post and explained in detail in the linked article regarding the settlement of the matter between Riedel and Atkin.

      Washam received the letter in the U.S., from the U.S. office of Riedel’s attorneys on the matter. We are justified in an interpretation that Riedel was threatening Washam directly with legal action.

      I think it is also reasonable to assume, based on the above, that Riedel’s attorneys knew of those differences between U.S. and UK law before sending the letter to Washam.

      Therefore, one interpretation is that the entire letter is a bullying tactic. By which I conclude they engaged in a**hole-like, douchebag behavior.

      Ergo, F-ck Riedel.

  • MyrddinGwin


    Riedel is certainly not reacting very well to criticism or satire. Mind you, I don’t think I’d buy things from them anyway for a few reasons:
    1) Riedel glasses are rather expensive, and I’d rather spend the money on wine directly
    2) I have rather strong reactions to fluctuations in gravity, and therefore drop things frequently (that’s my excuse), and so even if I were fabulously wealthy, I’d quickly go bankrupt if I were buying new glasses from Riedel
    3) While I do find the idea of “specific grape variety glasses” intriguing, I’m not sure if they’d have ones for Xinomavro, Fetească Neagră, Malagouzia, Rkatsiteli, or A-80181.
    Most of my glasses at home come from Goodwill, Value Village, or Ikea, for the record.

    • 1WineDude


      MG – noted. Thin stem, tulip-shapped, and you are basically good to go for, what, well over 80% of wines, I’d think.

      • MyrddinGwin


        My extravagance was on flutes. Those cost about $3 each when I bought them about two years ago, and I bought six. Currently, I have four. Strangely enough, I didn’t break the two of them–someone else in my family did. Still, though, looking at Riedel prices, I’d’ve been out $40, rather than $6.

  • sao anash


    MyrddinGwin, I need to take you out for a cold beer. You’re witty!

  • Bob Henry


    Excerpts from Wine Spectator Online
    (posted June 10, 2009):

    “The Perfect Wineglass: One Size Fits All”

    Link: http://www.winespectator.com/blogs/show/id/16224

    By James Laube
    California Wines Editor/Reviewer

    Over the years I’ve tried scores of different wineglasses, and I’m convinced that the easiest way to make any wine taste better is to use a good glass, one that allows a wine to show its stuff, be it visually, or aromatically, or how it delivers the flavors to your palate.

    . . .

    I’ve done many different glass tests, too, where the same wine is served in different-shaped vessels, and indeed there are often real differences in how a wine smells or tastes, depending on the glass. . . .

    Most people are surprised then when they find out that I only use one kind of glass at home for drinking table wines, irrespective of the varietal, color or appellation.

    It’s the Tritan Burgundy Glass by Schott Zwiesel ‘Forte’ (model 8465/140), which sells for about $9 a stem, which I think is great for all wines. I have a couple dozen handy for nights when multiple stems are necessary. . . .

    I feel fortunate to have found what I consider the perfect wineglass . . . [It’s] attractive, elegant, balanced, sturdy without being heavy or clumsy . . . and [it’s] durable and dishwasher-safe. . . .

  • Bob Henry


    “Hello sweetheart . . . get me rewrite!”

    Revising Dude’s reworking of their corporate logo:

    RIEDEL
    THE WINE A$$ COMPANY

    • 1WineDude


      Bob – I try :) .

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