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Posted by Michael Franz on January 12, 2017 at 12:18 PM

From Best of 2016, Best Glass: Zalto Denk`Art Universal Glass

I first encountered this glass two years ago when tasting in southern France, and it was pretty clearly the most arresting vessel I’d ever been handed for sampling a wine.  It is beautiful to behold and even more amazing to handle, as it seems almost weightless.  Moreover, the balance from the base to the top of the bowl is so perfect that, when loaded with an appropriately-sized pour and swirled, it produces an uncanny sensory impression that the only weight in one’s hand is derived from the rotation of the wine itself.

I deliberately put the glass out of my mind after our first meeting, as it didn’t take a genius to determine that it would be expensive and pretty breakable, as it is an almost impossibly thin, mouth-blown item.  I recall my thought at the moment being something like, “I need another expensive obsession like I need a hole in the head.”

That worked well enough for about 18 months, but then I sat in on a seminar on Austrian Pinot Blancs in Vienna last summer, and 8 of the damned things had me surrounded.  Noted writer David Schildknecht, who conducted the seminar, felt the need to tell the attendees (all journalists) not to walk off with the glasses afterward.  Had he not done so, I’ve no doubt that the count would have been diminished significantly.  That’s how striking this glass is.

Anyway, I finally sprung for a couple of them last fall, with the result that I’ve now officially fallen out of love with every other glass that I own…and I own a lot of them.

Zalto is an Austrian company, and this line is dedicated to a certain priest named Hans Denk, who is apparently a quite influential student of wine in Austria. Regarding the design of the entire line of glasses, Zalto’s website offers the following account, which I quote verbatim:

“The development of the Denk`Art series was as influenced by the earth as by the universe beyond.  The curve of the bowls are tilted at the angles of 24°, 48° and 72°, which are in accordance to the tilt angles of the Earth.  The ancient Romans utilized this triumvirate of angles with their supply repositories, finding that produce stayed fresh for a longer time, and that it also showed improved taste.  Due to these cosmic parallels, we believe that a wine can reach its utmost potential in a Denk`Art glass, developing everything that is possible in the nose as well as on palate, due to these cosmic parallels.”

To be clear, this looks like total mumbo-jumbo to me, and I don’t put a dime’s worth of stock into the business about cosmic parallels.  But with that noted, the design of the glass is undeniably marvelous.  As for the word “Universal” in the name of the glass, that apparently refers not to the cosmos, but rather to its all-purpose design.  Other glasses in the line include stems dedicated to Burgundy, Bordeaux, Sweet Wine, White Wine, Champagne, Digestifs, Beer and Water. 

Have I tried these types?  Absolutely not.  Why not?  Because I need 8 more expensive obsessions like I need 8 holes in my head.

As for expense, the best online prices hover around $60.  Wine Enthusiast will personalize your glass with a single initial for an additional $20, but in my humble opinion, only a jackass would mar this beautiful object with a giant letter.  As for durability, Zalto’s website says the glasses, “…may be washed in a dishwasher,” but that seems like exceedingly bad advice.  After all, dishwashers don’t break glasses; dishwasher loaders break glasses.

Although the reservations I’ve expressed here about Zalto’s usage recommendations and cosmic design principles should make it clear that I haven’t quite drunk the cool-aid, I confess that I’m madly in love with this glass.  Try one at your own risk!

Nielson, Santa Barbara County (California) Pinot Noir 2014 ($18)
This is among the best under-$20 Pinot made anywhere in the world.  By “best,” I most certainly don’t mean “biggest,” but rather most delicate, integrated and pure.  If I want a bigger wine, I’m perfectly capable of ordering Syrah or Cabernet.  If I’m after Pinot, it is because I want a wine that won’t fight with my fish or chicken.  This fits the bill perfectly, showing light-medium body, appropriately pale color, significant (but not overbearing) aroma and flavor, and a finish that is fairly long and very fresh… without any awkward sweetness or hint of cheap oak-chip tricks.  Delicious, and a triumph at this price.
92 Michael Franz

Dr. Michael
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