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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!

J Vineyards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2014 ($40)
J strikes again with a vibrant Russian River Valley bottling, showing black cherry, cola, cinnamon and clove aromas that translate nicely to plate flavors.  Bright acidity extends the finish and helps bring a sweet oak note forward.  Add in that it's fairly widely available at a discount, and you've got a fine introduction to their Pinot Noir portfolio.  Watch for the vineyard designates -- no doubt they'll be appearing in these pages soon.
92 Rich Cook

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
Best of 2016, Part II
Michael Franz

As the happy occupant of the World's Best Job, I believe it is good karma to tip my hat to outstanding performances, wines and accessories that I've encountered each year. Having logged more than 70,000 air miles in 2016 and tasted over 9,000 wines, it is fair to say that I've been around the block, and here's a second set of observations concerning the best things I encountered along the way. I'll be tacking new items onto this column every day this week, so stay tuned:
A Case for Bordeaux
Jessica Dupuy

As wine drinking has become less formal for most consumers across the globe, Bordeaux winemakers have expanded their approach with wines that are ready to drink earlier and are better suited to how we live and eat today. That means there's a trend towards less tannic, less extracted wines. The result is a wider range of foods suitable for enjoyment with the wines, as well as a shift away from the perception of Bordeaux as being only for special occasions and fine dining. There's also a focus on broadening the styles of wine produced, expanding from age-worthy reds to include a growing number of dry white wines, rosés, sparklers and dessert wines.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Indian Chicken and Rice

This basic riff on Indian fare has a host of virtues. It's one of those comforting one-dish meals that's simple to prepare and easy to love. It may be prepared ahead of time, there are no extra pots and pans to wash, and the dish really requires no other accompaniment unless you want to serve a vegetable or basic green salad along with it. If you are wedded to chicken breasts rather than thighs, you may of course make that substitution, recognizing that thighs offer significantly more flavor and texture. We found that another great merit of this Indian-inspired dish is that it is tasty with both red and white wines.
On My Table
An Exemplary Trio from Washington
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

An impressive trio of new releases from Buty Winery underscores the diversity and potential of the three varieties. One wine, the 2014 Connor Lee Vineyard from Columbia Valley ($45) combines Merlot with Cabernet Franc in a 63-37 ratio. In another wine, the 2013 'Columbia Rediviva' from Horse Heaven Hills, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates with 15 percent Syrah in the blend. The third wine, 2013 'Rediviva of the Stones' ($60) from the winery's Rockgarden Estate in Walla Walla Valley, is 80 percent Syrah; Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre account for the balance, at 14 and 6 percent respectively. All three are fine wines that truly represent their dominant grape varieties.