We recently attended an informative seminar led by sommelier André Mack and 6th generation glass designer Kurt Josef Zalto to present Kurt’s own lineup of stemware called Josephinenhütte. Zalto founded this company in early 2019 and chose the name to honor a glassworks company founded in 1842 in central Europe by Count Leopold von Schaffgotsch who named the company after his wife Josephine.
Inspiration for Zalto’s designs come from a variety of sources including visits to museums to study old glassware and also the natural world including flowers and various cell structures. He initially creates a series of drawings and templates for new designs and provides prototypes to friends and others for feedback.
Each glass is made by hand and can take up to 3 days to be completed. Zalto told us, “my glasses must be exact”, referring to the precision and details needed to create every piece of stemware. The focus is on four wine glasses: Josephine No 1 White, Josephine No 2 Universal, Josephine No 3 – Red and Josephine No 4 Champagne along with Josephine No 5, a water glass. The Champagne glass in particular is less of a flute shape but more of a hybrid between a flute and a contemporary wine glass.
During our tasting several people offered validation of the Josephinenhütte stemware. Andre mentioned that in his restaurant if an employee breaks two glasses in an evening they are sent home. Despite their lightweight feel, he noted that their break rate for this particular stemware is quite low – which is always good for business. The Josephinenhütte glasses are lightweight, thin-walled, yet also flexible. They feel so much more elegant compared to heavier more cumbersome stemware.
One winery simultaneously tasted their wines in these glasses along with glasses they had previously been using. They found numerous positive details in the design that soon they sold all of their previous stemware and switched to Josephinenhütte. This particular winery produces a diversity of single vineyard Pinot Noir bottlings; each one is distinctive – they found this stemware accentuated the differences in their wines.
They also noticed this stemware provides more surface area of glass to wine including the noticeable goblet/bulge built into the base of the glass. This in part highlighted the aromatics of their wines. And they found that the gradient on the bottom of the glass allows tasters to better see the color of the wine. They concluded their thoughts by saying, “Josephinenhütte is a big step up in how we show our wines to our guests”.
Zalto also designed a wine decanter with a pyramid shaped piece of glass inside so that when the wine is poured into the decanter it hits the top of the pyramid and is evenly distributed down the sides.
The Josephinenhütte team sent us several of their stemware; all of the glasses really make the wine aromas ‘pop’ and become accentuated especially the Josephine No 3. We look forward to continue to taste hundreds of Napa Valley wines each year, but with our new glasses in hand. And these are a major upgrade from our previous stemware; we immediately compared this to the differences in changing vehicles from an old underpowered car to a modern sleek sportscar.
Josephinenhütte is available for purchase in the U.S. through their website: https://us.josephinen.com