Georg Riedel looks at a wine glass and sees an instrument, an essential tool needed to enhance the flavour of the drink and to add to the pleasure of consuming it. The ardent wine connoisseur, a 10th-generation descendant of the Austrian glass-making company that bears his family's name, knows he is not alone in insisting that even the most modest wines should be served in the appropriate vessel: the thickness of the rim and stem, the width of the glass, the way in which it is held - all these seemingly inconsequential details must be considered. Anything less, he said, diminished the value of even the humblest oenological experience. 'The amount of work that goes into producing any wine is unimaginable,' said Mr Riedel. 'It is the responsibility of the connoisseur to drink it properly.' Mr Riedel was in Hong Kong last week for the Wines of the Pacific Rim Festival. While here, he took part in masterclasses, where he set out to prove that even the most subtle difference between glasses could make a dramatic difference in the taste of the wine. The concept was spearheaded by Mr Riedel's father. And while perfecting the art of wine-drinking is a labour of love for Mr Riedel, the company's expertise in the field is also seen as 'a service to the wine industry'. 'Ours is a very specific and growing market niche. More and more of our competitors are keen on getting into it. But we are known in the world of wine as specialised makers of wine glasses,' he said. More importantly, he wants to prove that not only serious wine aficionados would be able to appreciate the lesser enjoyment derived from drinking a bordeaux from a glass designed for a chianti, or sipping a sauternes from a vessel best used for a chardonnay. 'Anyone who drinks wine can taste the difference,' said Mr Riedel. 'The perfect glass controls the delivery of the wine at a certain part of the tongue, which has the greatest ability to balance the components of the wine.' The right stemware, believes Mr Riedel, succeeds in 'balancing the levels of acidity and alcohol'. And because wine should always be sipped, using the appropriate glass 'ensures proper control'. That may sound contrived and implausible for most social drinkers, reducing what should be an easy and enjoyable experience into an exercise in scientific precision. On the contrary, said Mr Riedel, there was no point drinking wine unless it was contained in the right vessel. And the better the wine, the more important the glass. 'The difference between a good and bad glass is in its complexity. Like an onion, a wine has many layers, many nuances. Good wine has balanced components and a certain finesse. And this is the message that wine carries forward.' While most prestigious glass and crystal makers create special signature glasses - like Cristal St Louis' ornately cut and coloured specimens and Lalique's uniquely frosted varieties - there is something notably simple about Riedel's specialised stemware. Clear and perfectly smooth glasses, cut fine across the rim and down the stem: pure forms that belie the complex functions they are said to perform. 'Most other glasses, even the very expensive ones, are made in a particular way to showcase a fashion, a trend, or the status of the owner,' said Mr Riedel. 'But they should be kept simple, down to the basics. There is no need to have colour on the glass because the idea is to focus on what is inside,' he said. Glasses that were too wide across the top, said Mr Riedel, 'make it difficult to hold the bouquet as the wine is affected by different elements in the air. There is no control, and delivery flows wide across the palate'. Mr Riedel believed that as people began refining their drinking tastes and upgrading their choice of wines, they would apply the same degree of attention to the stemware they use. And to start with, a wine-drinker should have a single glass for the wine he enjoyed the most, he said. 'Differences in grape varieties are so subtle that every shape is justified,' he said. In 1973, Riedel produced a Sommeliers Collection, a set of 31 mouth-blown glasses which 'help different wines and spirits reach their fullest expression', he said. For ardent wine-lovers, there is a Vinum set of 20 machine-blown glasses, while those just starting out on a course of wine exploration can make do with the Ouverture, comprising eight shapes. For those who want to start with one glass that will satisfy all their wine-drinking needs, Mr Riedel suggests the Gourmet, an elementary one-size-fits-all shape that he described as 'an attempt to play a great symphony with just one instrument'.