I’ll Zalto You A Thing Or Two

Lost in all the Riedel-Hosemaster kerfuffle is of course the most pertinent question of our wine time.

Do people still consider Riedel to be the gold standard in wine glasses?

(The Hosemaster fallout means I should probably stick in some sort of legal disclaimer here before people start to argue that there are in fact more important questions in the wine world.)

Riedel me this?

I’ll Zalto you a thing or two!

A wine journalist once tried to test me. I didn’t resort to eating his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti, but had I countenanced it, I certainly would’ve been drinking from a Zalto.

Our little exchange centred on the notion that a wine writer should drink wines from the same vessels used by Joe Public. The implication was that writers were in some way more genuine if they used the same wine glasses as their readers.

I guess that depends on your readers. Most of you seem like pretty sensible folk – you keep clicking on my post about Jean Foillard’s Morgon Côte du Py at any rate – so I’m just going to assume you are all already using Zalto.

I’m only a recent convert to Zalto myself. I love the lightweight feel and look of the Universal glass, and although it’ll probably send Zalto champion-in-chief Daniel Primack into a fit of apoplexy, I’m finding it brilliant for everything from orange wines to Sangioveses and Syrahs. It also works well with some fuller bodied fino sherries, although I’ve now transitioned those to the white wine glass as my Zalto collection has expanded.

Zalto seem to accentuate every nuance in a wine – perhaps this is how people have been coming up with those fantastically verbose and obscure tasting notes that have become popular in recent years. Interestingly, they also amplify any flaws, a feature that has got me wondering how may faults have gone unnoticed because they are hiding behind the protection of Swedish homeware store silica.

Zalto Universal

The Zalto Universal glass with one of those wines that Zalto users seem to like

Of course, you could sit there any argue that glass shape makes no difference to your enjoyment of wine. You’d be wrong though, even if I do admit that it seems a little hypocritical of me to suggest that glass shape is important and then proceed to dump my Champagne into the white wine glass, ignoring those voices telling me to use the dedicated Zalto Champagne glass.

There is a science behind the curvature of Zalto stemware; the angles are said to align with the tilt of the earth. Talk of cosmic parallels will soon attract the ire of the anti-biodynamic commentariat, so perhaps we’ll leave it at that for today.

Durability of the glass is a factor for many people, particularly if you are shelling out €25-30 for one. Zalto seem to be surprisingly robust – you can even flex the rim in a terrifying wine version of the game ‘Chicken’. This flexibility had me racking my brains for my long forgotten undergraduate engineering mechanics of solids and materials knowledge to understand how such alchemy was possible. I’m still searching.

My own experience is that I’ve found Riedels to be somewhat brittle, at the stem-bowl junction in particular, whereas I’ve yet to snap any Zalto. I’ve chosen my words carefully here. There have been two Zalto casualties, but I’m not sure I’d expect any glass to survive the cordless bungee jump from my kitchen table to the hardwood floor below.

I do have one slight disclaimer; my Zalto Burgundy glass (which I use for Nebbiolo) was one of those foolish daredevil jumpers. I’ve read that some releases of the glass weigh about 110-120g. Mine was 156g (yes I weighed it and yes I only bought one!) and seemed to have a thicker stem than others I’d used in restaurants, but even at that weight the bits of my engineering brain that were working had me ever so slightly nervous about the bowl to stem diameter ratio. There’s no aggressive swirling allowed in my house anymore as a result, but I have added a set of Zalto Burgundies to my Christmas list (only 130 shopping days left people!) so will report on the lighter and thinner stems in due course.

I really can’t recommend these glasses highly enough. If you have yet to try them, they can be bought in the UK from Daniel at Winerackd and in Ireland from Tindal Wine Merchants and Searsons.