Since getting the Coravin wine dispensing system, we have been trying quite a few bottles of mature wine which were bought many years ago without fear of them going bad. But with the Riedel Magnum glass, I found that the aroma from some of the lesser wines was just not coming through, which made me question whether it was the right glass for our tastings.
And having watched the movie on Amazon Prime Video ‘A year in Burgundy‘, which documents a full year of life in Burgundy wine-making, I observed the shape of the wine glasses they used for their top wines was markedly different from my Riedel Magnum glass. After a little research, I came upon the Zalto Universal wine glass which is highly rated by wine experts and wine connoisseurs. And so for Christmas, my wife bought me 6 of these wine glasses (great for wine tasting with spares in case 1 or 2 get broken).
The Zalto Universal wine glass is not cheap – £31 each or £170 for a box of 6 glasses; the Riedel Ouverture Magnum in comparison cost £25 for 2 or £75 for 8 glasses. But the Zalto Universal are hand-blown, look very classy indeed and are highly rated in reviews.
As you can see, the Zalto Universal stands slightly taller than the Riedel Magnum, and is much thinner and lighter. The shape is obviously the biggest difference – I do like the fact the base is flatter than the Riedel Magnum, as it allows the wine to be swirled effortlessly. I am extra cautious when using or cleaning the Zalto Universal glasses as they look so fragile and I do not wish to break them.
Zalto do mention about the angles for perfect flavour in their brochure, which I do not quite understand. But if it does work, who am I to question why. It is even dishwasher safe, but I would not risk it even if it is safe, as I would only use hot water at most to clean these glasses – residual detergent on the glass could affect the wine.
Now in order to put the Zalto Universal glass to the test, I decided to choose 4 different wines for my wife and I to taste. The comparison is the Zalto Universal vs Riedel magnum wine glass which I had been using for many years up until now. We did the test on Christmas day while my wife was preparing our Christmas dinner.
The 4 wines I chose were:
- Tyrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 1998 (my choice of white),
- Norton Privada 2006 (my choice of ‘plonk’),
- Penfolds Grange 2000 – my choice of shiraz wine and
- Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1998 – top end Bordeaux wine.
We first started with the white wine, and progressed in the above order as I did not want the more powerful wines to overwhelm the others. On first initial evaluation of the Tyrell’s Vat 1 Semillon, I was surprised to find that the Riedel magnum brought out more of the aromas than the Zalto. I quickly realised that the fill of wine was discrepant with more wine in the Riedel than in the Zalto. Once the levels were adjusted to be roughly equal, then it became clear that the Zalto was the better performer and continued to allow the aromas to come through with minimal amount of swirling required (unlike the Riedel magnum).
There was plenty of honey and nut aromas coming through, as would be expected of a Semillon wine of that age. We both agreed that the Zalto definitely fared better than the Riedel. With this part of the tasting decided, I proceeded to empty the remaining contents of the Riedel into the Zalto. We could now go to the next wine. As an aid for our wine tastings, I have started keeping logs of our wine tastings in the Pocket Wine Journal App on my iPhone. This will be a particularly useful resource when reviewing the development of wine over time. Below I have put a collage of the 4 wines tasted when comparing the wine glasses.
Going through each wine in turn, we found that we enjoyed the aromas emanating from the Zalto Universal glass for longer as it kept coming through, whereas the Riedel magnum had a strong initial whiff which then quickly dissipates until you swirl the glass again – I do find the aromas of the wine to be the most enjoyable part of wine tasting, so this is particularly important for me. My feeling is that the Zalto requires less swirling to appreciate the aromas of the wine, which means that the wine can continue to improve slowly in glass for longer so we get even more from each glass through the evening. After each wine was tasted and the Zalto proclaimed the winner, the contents were emptied into the Zalto so it could continue to be enjoyed for the rest of the evening.
When serving lovely mature wine, they do deserve to be served up in quality glassware to get the most out of them. The Zalto Universal wine glass has certainly improved our enjoyment of the wine we taste and drink, and should allow us to learn more from the wine as well; bearing in mind that the Riedel Magnum is no slouch and a very good wine glass in its own right – so upgrading from other wine glasses to the Zalto may be an even bigger step up.
What I like about the Zalto Universal wine glass?
- Hand-blown and looks very beautifully made with their long slender stems. Lightweight and very easy to swirl.
- Does allow the aromas of the wine to come through very well, and requires less swirling to achieve this – which is gentler on the wine and allows it to slowly improve in glass over the evening.
- Does make the wine tasting and drinking experience more enjoyable, and allows us to learn from tasting the wine even more than the Riedel glass could.
What could be improved?
I don’t think I could suggest any improvements for the Zalto Universal wine glass as it looks so beautiful and works well as it is. The cost may be off-putting for some, as to be honest it is not cheap. But quality costs, and these are hand-blown, unlike the Riedel (which are machine-blown and hence less costly to manufacture). Although the glass feels strong, the fact it is thinner compared to most wine glasses out there suggests that there needs to be great care when handling these glasses – you don’t really want to break these expensive glasses.
I am very happy with my Christmas present this year. The Zalto Universal is now my preferred wine glass when tasting wine, and some of the wines tasted recently which I have revisited using this new glass have definitely smelled and tasted better than compared to the previous tasting. That in itself is sufficient for me to give the thumbs up for this wine glass. Definitely recommended.