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Kurt Josef Zalto: The Glass Revolutionary

Kurt Zalto Porträt

A new dimension in taste

The Austrian glass designer Kurt Josef Zalto has already set standards with his invention of a glass. Now, some 20 years later, with the creation of a completely new type of glass, he is once again going far beyond the current concept of good quality. With the glasses of the „Josephine“ series he has created his masterpiece: The original form of the wine glass, as logical as nature. 

One expects to find visionaries in the big city rather than in the Austrian Waldviertel. However, the drinking glasses of the future come from the rural region near the Czech border, where city dwellers rarely stray. Here, glass designer Kurt Josef Zalto has developed a glass that is already regarded by experts as the new benchmark: light, delicate and flexible, in keeping with his well-known craftmanship. Beyond that, however, the wafer-thin, almost transcendent sculpture is calculated down to the last detail and created with a unique bend that combines form and function in the most beautiful way. The design ensures that part of the wine is refracted on its way to the rim and flows back into the glass in a spiral movement, this way it absorbs a great deal of oxygen and can develop perfectly.

"A completely new dimension in taste. At the same time, the glass is so fine that you almost feel as if you are holding the wine directly in your hand", says Kurt Josef Zalto. 

“The distance between wine and those who drink it is barely existent”

The perfect shape

The starting point was a demand on himself, he says: "There had to be a basic, primal shape for the glass - a glass as logical as if it were created by nature, a glass that unleashes the aromas of the wine. This is the glass you must find." Countless experiments and prototypes followed, shapes were calculated, glasses blown, ideas tested and rejected again and again until Kurt Josef Zalto had found the glass that satisfied his highest demands. The absolute passion and dedication that he put into the development of the Josephine becomes clear when he talks about this key moment with shining eyes: "When I held the Josephine in my hand for the first time, I felt that I had succeeded in creating something very special. After I had drunk the first sip of wine from it, I knew it was true." Although never solely concerned with aesthetics, but rather with the optimal development of the wine, Kurt Josef Zalto calculated the glasses according to the principle of the golden ratio. The resulting harmony of form immediately catches the eye. 

For the glass designer, this is proof that true perfection and harmony always originate from nature: "If the glass follows the basic principles of nature, all the senses are equally addressed", says the glass designer.

"Sensor technology and design merge to become a complete work of art"

Kurt Josef Zalto’s high design standards run in the family. He is among the sixth generation to descended from the Venetians, who came as chemists and glass technicians to the Waldviertel in the 18th century, at that time an important location for glass production. Kurt Josef Zalto’s ancestors were all glass specialists: glassmakers, glass engravers. Their products have always stood for particularly beautiful, finely structured glass, including many elaborately worked, painted and engraved glasses, very much in the tradition of the original Josephinenhütte. "To this day I can produce everything from portraits to the most complicated transparent paintings", he says.

Striving for innovation is also part of this tradition. His ancestors never looked to the competition, says Kurt Josef Zalto. "We have always done what we personally liked. That’s probably where my ambition to always want to create something new comes from."

A good glass needs time

Kurt Josef Zalto is a glass designer by passion, a sensitive person who always wanted to take up a creative profession. He has never been interested in earning money, his work is his passion. What fascinates him about glass, perhaps the oldest artificially produced material, is the development process, he says. 

Also, the whole atmosphere of the glassworks, a creative centre in the seclusion of the forest: "This is where the idea for a new glass is born, the design, the drawing, this is where it is produced for the first time. You live with the material, the liquid glass and the high temperatures, and you never know if the quality will be right the next day. You feel different moods, the harmony in a group of people working together with absolute concentration. It is an exciting and fulfilling life.

A life that is also determined by attentively following developments in the world.  "A good glass takes time, it must be conceived and manufactured with absolute love", says Kurt Josef Zalto. It is no coincidence that his masterpiece, which he has been developing for years, today meets the lovingly made, multi-faceted wines of a new generation of winemakers. Kurt Josef Zalto has quite deliberately invented a glass that provides a perfect stage for the strength of character of these wines.

Kurt Josef Zalto and Josephinenhütte

Kurt Josef Zalto has become the creative head of the Josephinenhütte because he can identify with the values of the those, who are building the new company together with him. „They are people who are absolutely dedicated to their work and are used to working passionately at the highest level", he says. "I like that and that’s the right approach".