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  • March 23, 2013
  • In Praise of Zalto

  • by Lars Carlberg

zalto_denkartMy favorite wine glass is by far the Universal from Zalto, a part of the Denk'Art line from this small, traditional Austrian manufacturer of handmade, mouth-blown glasses. (My opinion has changed a little; see comments below.)

Zalto is based in Neunagelberg, in Lower Austria, in the most northeasternmost part of the country. The Zalto family, a glassmaking dynasty, came here from Venice over six generations ago.

Over the last few years, Zalto stemware has become more and more popular among consumers and producers in Germany, including on the Mosel. In the Nahe region, Tim Fröhlich of Schäfer-Fröhlich is a big fan of Zalto and uses different-sized glasses for his various wines. Several years ago, I first drank from a Zalto Denk'Art glass for white wine and was struck by how light and balanced it felt in my hand and how it accentuated the taste of the Nahe Rieslings that I was sampling with Matthias Adams of von Racknitz.

Since then, I decided to buy a couple of the Universal as my everyday, all-around glass for both white and red wines, though I mostly drink Mosel Riesling. The smaller white wine glass from Zalto is another very good option for Mosels, whether dry or sweet. In contrast to the Riedel Sommeliers Rheingau glass, Zalto's white wine glass is far better for swirling and is tapered inward at the top with a similar form to the Universal and the other Denk'Art models. Riedel's machine-made Vinum series Chianti Classico/Riesling Grand Cru is also a popular choice for German Riesling.

Before switching to Zalto, I preferred Spiegelau Authentis, a common glass at Parisian wine bars and shops, which often put their logo engraved on the side or foot of the glass. In 2004, the German company Nachtmann, including Spiegelau, was purchased by its main rival the Austrian Georg Riedel, owner of the large Riedel Glass Works.

Like Spiegelau, Schott Zwiesel (Zwiesel Kristalglass AG) is another well-known German glass manufacturer based in the Bavarian Forest and close to the Czech Republic. Yet Zalto is, in my opinion, finer and better looking than the others.

In the Czech Republic, the region of Bohemia, where the Riedel family originates, is famous for its Bohemian glass and artisans over many centuries. Zalto has glassblowers from here, too.

With the Denk'Art series, Zalto pays homage to the Austrian wine expert Hans Denk, who was a mentor for the development of this line of stemware. "They are produced without the addition of lead oxide and are resistant against clouding," Zalto says. Despite the paper-thin glass, the delicate-looking Zaltos are quite sturdy. Zalto even recommends washing the glasses in a dishwasher. As I don't have one, I just wash the glasses under running hot water in the sink.

Zaltos are mouth blown in one piece, so that they don't easily break, as some glasses do at the top of the stem, where it meets the bowl. If you're not careful, breakage often occurs at this joint when polishing certain wine glasses by hand.

I now have over a half-dozen Universal. Of course, these are more expensive than my unpretentious, short-stem INAO glasses or Riedel Vinum Gourmet, both of which I never use now. In addition, the entire Denk'Art series has a great design. I even like Zalto's spittoons, although I don't spit at home. ♦

Image courtesy of Christoph Hinterleitner.

  • As a follow-up to my post above, I also like to drink from simple glasses. It doesn’t need to be expensive stemware. Depending on the wine and the occasion, a basic tulip-shaped glass, like the INAO glass, is fine. Schott Zwiesel and Spiegelau, for example, have sturdy little tasting glasses. By the way, Zalto’s water glass has almost the same bowl as the white wine glass; only the stem is shorter.

    • Yesterday, Roman Niewodniczanski of Van Volxem showed me his new Gabriel-Glas, which had just arrived that afternoon with a Van Volxem logo on the bowl. (Another set of glasses, without a logo, was for his friend Abi Duhr of Château Pauqué, in Luxembourg.)

      The Gabriel-Glas is a collaboration between the glass creator Siegfried Seidl and the well-known wine critic René Gabriel. The glass is similar to Zalto, but the bowl is smaller and rounder at the bottom. I was quite impressed tasting Van Volxem’s 2012s with it. Before switching to the mouth-blown Gabriel-Glas, Roman had the Authentis red wine glass from Spiegelau for his Saar wines.

      Later that day, I talked with Florian Lauer of Weingut Peter Lauer. Like other Mosel growers, he now has Zalto Universal but also uses less-expensive stemware. The VDP, for example, has Schott Zwiesel as sponsor and recommends the inexpensive line called Taste, which is what Florian has in his vinotheque.

      Another very good manufacturer of wine glasses is Stölzle Lausitz. My girlfriend brought these to my attention, even though I’ve known about this German manufacturer, as Immich-Batterieberg has Stölzle, along with Zalto now.

      Earlier this week, I visited Markus Molitor’s newly renovated Haus Klosterberg. He has plenty of Zalto Universal with his logo on the foot of the stem.

      • Today, I ordered some Schott Zwiesel white wine glasses from the Taste line series. Sometimes, I just prefer a smaller and simpler glass for everyday drinking of Mosel wine. Moreover, they’re easier to clean without a dishwasher.

        The Taste white wine glass doesn’t feel as light or balanced as Zalto, plus the stem can have a rough edge. On the other hand, I can’t expect too much for the low price. I tend to prefer simple, short-stem glasses. One of my favorites was a short-stem glass used at Willi’s Wine Bar in the nineties. I noticed that the newly opened Clamato in Paris has a similar style.

        Pierre Jancou of Vivant, in Paris, says that he uses the inexpensive Spiegelau line called Expert for his restaurant and wine bar, although he likes the INAO glass, too.

  • The Schott Zwiesel Taste red wine glass is quite good for the price. A friend uses these for both red and white wines, especially Mosel Rieslings—a glass that I would like to buy, too. I only have three Zalto Universals now.

    In addition, Stölzle Lausitz also makes the INAO-style tasting glasses for its Grandezza and Classic long-life series.

  • On a recent visit to Weingut O. in Traben-Trarbach, I learned from Olaf Schneider that the Gabriel-Glas comes in both hand-blown and machine-made versions. He had the latter at his home in Rißbach. Gabriel is supposedly making a lot of money with his name.

  • Today, I ordered a couple of the machine-made Gabriel-Glas. I’ll probably buy six more later this summer, and I’ve 12 Schott Zwiesel Taste white wine glasses for a large tasting or party.

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