Glassware that raises the (wine) bar.
"The stem is like a stiletto heel."
~ Michele Smith, Wine Director of Brooklyn Fare
Just prior to opening our doors in the Spring of 2015, we were introduced to an elegant line of wine glasses that we were told would be perfect for Hopson Grace: stunning designs combined with a handmade product of the highest quality and craftsmanship. New-ish to the market, Zalto was relatively unheard of and not inexpensive. But the glasses were so beautiful, and Bon Appétit's Adam Rappaport had just claimed they were "quite possibly the greatest wine glass we'll ever drink from," so we decided to give them a try. We haven't looked back.
Called "the cool, new wine glass to covet" by the L.A. Times, Zalto is a boutique glassware maker from Austria, founded in 2000. The non-lead crystal glasses are hand blown and are limited in production. And like other brands' sommelier series, Zalto's stemware features an ultra-thin rim that makes drinking wine a pleasure.
Sommeliers are Smitten
Above: Zalto's Champagne Flute
Thomas Keller is using them at the French Laundry and Per Se. They’re on tables at Eleven Madison Park, Bouley and Le Bernadin. And Robert Parker, arguably one of the world's leading wine critics, has given Zalto an enthusiastic thumbs up. Why? For wine aficionados, the importance of the glass is significant. The last thing between the mouth and the wine itself, Zalto uses ancient Roman proportions that are said to enhance aroma and drinkability: the glasses' shapes imitate the 24-, 48-, and 72- degree tilt angles of the Earth.
But it's not just about ancient theories about aroma that stirs up desire for this stemware. Simply put, they're downright sexy. Cat Silirie, Executive Wine Director at Boston's Menton's restaurant (who now uses Zalto exclusively) says, "It's about the sensuality, the glass, the lighting. People are always taken aback at their beauty and glamour.” She adds, “these are some of the most beautiful glasses you could dream of."
A Cut Above
The Telegraph's Victoria Moore writes that she likes the way wine tastes out of Zalto, but "it’s really the way these glasses feel in your hand that makes them so seductive". The glass is hand-blown and so fine, so light that when you pick up other glasses after holding one, they feel uncomfortably clumsy." Jancis Robinson, the British wine journalist, critic and writer, concurs: "Any other glass just seems a bit clod-hopping," she states. Beauty and elegance aside, Zalto glasses are remarkably strong. Designed to be cleaned in a regular dishwasher, we put them to the test and, after almost two years, any breakages have been entirely our fault. One of the reasons they're so strong is that unlike most manufactured glasses, which are assembled, Zalto stemware is made using a single piece of glass. Watch below as the crystal is formed by highly skilled glass-blowers.
How to polish your Zaltos
Though they're amazingly durable in proportion to their delicacy, there's no warranty against breakage due to human error. Care needs to be taken as to where they're put in a dishwasher, and it's important to understand the best way to polish your glasses. Take a look (right) as Aldo Sohm, Le Bernardin's head sommelier demonstrates his recipe for success.
Why it's important to pair your wine with the right glass
Knowing that aroma and bouquet are a vital part of the enjoyment of your wine, the glass you use is key to the experience. Most importantly, it should have a bowl large enough so that the wine will fill only a third of the glass. This allows the aroma to fill the bowl. With each sip, your nose does more tasting than your mouth. Read on for a breakdown of the science behind the marriage between wine and wine glasses.
REDS With red wine, it's important to choose a glass with a round wide bowl because that helps the wine make contact with air. Reds taste their best at room temperature and therefore needs air to breathe so the flavours of the wine are at their best.
WHITES Because white wines - with their citrus-based or spicy flavours - are most flavourful served cold, they require a narrow bowl, which concentrates the aroma and reduces the surface area to keep the wine cool.
CHAMPAGNE A growing movement toward a tulip-shaped glass is taking place in the world of bubbles. Similar to a flute, the tulip glass has a greater bowl space to maintain bubbles, and yet its wider aperture helps the bubbles hit the right regions of your tongue (rather than ending up in your nose).