Thursday, May 13, 2010

Debate a Bubble - Champagne Glasses - Choose Your Weapons

Debate a Bubble - Champagne Glasses - Choose Your Weapons

Link to Debate a Bubble - Champagne News and Reviews

Champagne Glasses - Choose Your Weapons

Posted: 13 May 2010 12:25 AM PDT

Have you ever seen any of those black and white films set in the Victorian era when men would sometimes challenge each other to a duel to defend their honour?  Before the duel could start the essential thing was to choose the weapons: would it be swords, pistols or some other device? The choice of weapon made all the difference

When it comes to enjoying champagne, it's the glasses that make all the difference and although the stakes are not quite so high it's important to make the right choice for you. So what are those choices and why does it matter?...

Flutes selection Broadly speaking you have two choices. You can:

•    Go for something that you find beautiful, or
•    Choose a glass that will bring out the best in the champagne.

Sometimes you can achieve both objectives with the same glass, but not always.
Here are some suggestions:

A good glass really does change your experience of the champagne, so treat yourself to some thing of decent quality. What do I mean by that?

Well, champagne glasses should be fine and elegant. Above all the glass shouldn't be too thick.

Think of it this way: it's like drinking tea. You can enjoy tea from a fine bone china tea cup or from a porcelain mug, but the choice of cup or mug gives a different experience.
Short flute

The worst things are those thick, dumpy flutes that you sometimes get in hotels and  at large functions. (right)

They simply don't bring out anything in the champagne and certainly not its best.

This is a pity because caterers should know better and you can be sure they won't offer you any reduction in the price to compensate for using awful glasses!

Light, not too heavy when you pick the glass up.
Champagne is a light, bubbly drink that lifts the spirits and the glass should complement this.

Personally I find cut lead crystal glass too heavy. For me, the lighter the better, almost as if the glass doesn't exist.Too fussy flutes

(the glasses on the right are too fussy, in my view) 

Fairly tall with a long stem.
The stem is for holding so make sure there is something to get your hand around. A tall glass is also more elegant, as befits champagne

Not too narrow
To releaToo narrow flutese the aromas in any wine you need to swirl the wine around a bit in the glass, so don't choose anything that's too narrow, or you just can't get any movement in the wine.
 (see left)

The right shapeCIVC IGSC cover page

Equally the top of the glass should ideally turn in slightly so as to concentrate the aromas towards your nose when you drink. Glasses that splay out at the top allow the aromas to dissipate, (see right). 

The history of the champagne glass 

If you go back a few hundred years, champagne makers hadn't worked out how to remove the sediment from the bottle, so champagne was cloudy and slightly muddy-looking. To disguise this, the surface of the some champagne glasses, especially the tall and slim ones, was often left deliberately rough and semi-opaque. This was called a barley grain effect.

Another trick was to have hollow stems to the glasses so that the sediment sank down into the stem leaving the rest of the liquid fairly clear.

Then around the start of the 19th century, Veuve Clicquot, so the story goes, invented the process of remuage or riddling to remove the sediment, so the problem of murky champagne was solved, allowing totally transparent glasses to be used.

Sometime later in the 19th century and right through into the 20th century, the saucer-shaped glass called a coupe came back into fashion again, only to be superseded from about the 1970s onwards by the tall, slim glass that we call a flute.

Flute versus coupe

2 flutes Ch de Courcelles site  Flute is the word used to describe the tall, narrow, tulip-shaped style of champagne glass whereas coupe is the term for the shallow, saucer-shaped glass.

The flute has several advantages if you really want to appreciate the champagne you're drinking.

First you can see the stream of bubbles rising up the length of the glass and the bubbles, after all, are one of the main pleasures of champagne.

Second and more important, the tall, narrow shape focuses the aromas so that when you raise the glass to drink you can also smell and enjoy the full concentration of the aromas.

For this reason the most effective flutes curve slightly inwards at the top (like the shape of a tulip - see left), whilst those that open out at the top (like the shape of a lily) allow some of the aromas to escape.

Coupe glasses can be a lot of fun. For me they evoke images of decadent cocktail parties in the 1920s Cocktail with people doing the Charleston, but they go back a lot further than that because legend has it that the shape was modelled on Marie Antoinette's breasts.

I think coupes are great for serving champagne cocktails, but equally some people can't get the less flattering connection with the 60's drink Babycham, out of their minds.

The main drawback of the coupe is that the aromas of the champagne dissipate rapidly and you simply don't get the concentration of aromas that you can appreciate with a flute.

Another story you often hear about coupe glasses is that the bubbles disappear more quickly than in a flute. This is another old wives' tale which for all intents and purposes is of no practical value.

The bubbles in champagne just don't disappear in a few minutes, even in a coupe glass – it takes an hour or much more for champagne to lose its sparkle.

I don't know how long it takes you to finish a glass of champagne, but in my case it's a matter of minutes, not hours, so I shouldn't pay much attention to this particular myth about coupe glasses.

Remember, if you are at all interested in enjoying good champagne, then do get yourself some good champagne glasses.

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