Can a $75, hand-blown glass change the wine-drinking experience?

Zalto stemware is setting a new standard in the wine world, writes wine expert Carolyn Evans Hammond.
Each hand-blown, featherlight, impossibly thin glass dramatically changes the wine drinking experience. Yet it’s durable enough to be dishwasher-safe and is reassuringly lead free.
“From the beginning, it was always our aim to get the glass as thin as possible, which is only achieved by hand-blowing the glass rather than using machinery,” says Christoph Hinterleitner, general manager of Zalto Glas GmbH, based in Austria. “This lets the wine take centre stage, which is how it should be.”
Zalto stemware is so thin and lightweight that drinking from it feels like experiential art; they seem barely there, making you feel at one with the wine. They’re the thinnest wine glasses I’ve ever come across — ranging between 0.4 and 0.7 millimetre in thickness.
One of the reasons they’re so lightweight is they’re lead free. “Lead is traditionally used in hand-blown glass because of its low melting point, which keeps the glass liquid longer and makes it easier to work with. But we don’t use it,” says Hinterleitner. “Lead is quite heavy so it would add weight, and it’s not really healthy. In large amounts it can be dangerous, so we don’t want it in our glasses.”
Ironically, thinner, lead-free glass is actually more flexible than the thicker, leaded variety. So Zalto glasses aren’t as desperately delicate as they look, making them dishwasher safe — which is great given I’ve yet to meet someone who relishes the act of washing and drying stemware.
Zalto’s practicality is also reflected in its narrow product range. It offers just eight wine glasses, one of which is called the Universal — designed for any wine at all.
“We give the wine glasses names such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, White Wine and Champagne to be helpful, but those terms don’t really matter,” says Hinterleitner, whose father started the stemware line just nine years ago. “For instance, many people prefer to drink Champagne from the White Wine or the Universal glass. It depends what you like.”
This is a very different message than Riedel’s insistence every wine style or grape variety shows best in a specific glass, which is why the range is dizzyingly broad. Just this March, the company launched yet another shape specifically for Central Otago Pinot Noir. Riedel no doubt finds this premise quite lucrative, but I’ve always found it a bit ludicrous. Who has the money, inclination and shelf space for this level of wine glass gluttony?
Methinks Reidel is on to the glories of Zalto though because this year they launched a new collection of stemware they’re calling the Superleggero which, like Zalto, are hand-blown, lead free, ultrathin, lightweight and dishwasher safe. The range does not, however, offer a glass called the Universal.
Zalto stems are sold individually and aren’t cheap — they’re around $70 per stem — available from Ontario-based Amphora Trading. But they do strike me as a sound investment — especially the Universal stem.

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Source: Carolyn Evans Hammond – Toronto Star