The evolution of the champagne glass
How to serve champagne to show it at its best.
The majority of champagne is made up of three grape varieties – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier – and some of the production methods are the same between still and sparkling wines. The real significant difference comes down to the bubbles.
The average bottle of quality champagne is anything from several hundred ringgit to even a four-figure price tag. Now, imagine that you’ve bought a bottle of red wine for the equivalent cost. Would you crack it open and pour it into the closest mug or cup? Or would you perhaps decant it, monitor the temperature, consider the best glass to use, and savour it over a meal?
We’re happy to exchange our Pinot Noir glasses for Shiraz glasses when changing from one varietal to the next, so why are we letting champagne’s bubbles dominate our habits? It’s mostly to do with tradition, and how the history of champagne has shaped our views of what vessel it belongs in.
Rumour has it that Marie Antoinette’s left breast inspired the shape of this glass. The glass’ origin predates the French Queen so, while a good story, it’s not true.
However, the Coupe was popular during her time on the throne, as champagne produced at the time was sweeter and more syrupy. The saucer’s short sides and shallow bowl made it easy for you to dip your cake in it. Indulgent, yes, but let’s be honest: if you could soak your dessert in champagne, wouldn’t you?
The glass had a resurgence in the 1920s, again in the 1960s, then became popular a few years ago, to the disappointment of devout champagne lovers. While it may help you live the life of a flapper, its shape is completely ineffective when it comes to expressing the wine’s profile.
The open design causes both the bubbles and aroma to dissipate almost immediately and, if you consider that 70% of our perception of flavour comes from the aroma, you’re losing a lot of your experience for fashion’s sake.
Now thought of as something used primarily for special occasions, champagne drinkers needed a glass that allowed the bottle to be shared among many. The flute’s slim design made it perfect for toasting and provided a measured pour. As a result, the glass itself has now become a symbol of celebration. If you turn up to a friend’s place and see flutes on the bench, you automatically know you’re in for a good time!
Flutes also have the benefit of enhancing the bead. All quality products include a small scratch or mark at the base that agitates the champagne, encouraging it to stay bubbly as you drink.
The downside is that it doesn’t provide a perfect expression of aroma due to its thin opening. Even tulip-shaped flutes with more rounded bowls won’t provide you with the full aromatic experience.
A tall white wine glass with a tulip shape is better suited for leaner champagnes like Blanc de Blanc, made primarily from Chardonnay grapes. Its modest bowl size develops the aromas without overwhelming them, particularly in vintage champagnes where time has allowed the characteristics to become more complex.
To elevate the more opulent rosé champagnes, derived mainly from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, the New World Pinot Noir bowl is unbeatable. It outperformed flutes by a mile to show impressive depth of character.
Riedel’s Veritas series is the first in the world to feature a glass (not a flute) designed specifically for drinking champagne, as you would still wine. The Veritas Champagne Glass features a curved egg-shaped bowl with a small opening to envelop the aroma.
To shop for premium glasses to enjoy champagne or wines, check out aeclub.com.my to catch the last week of the Riedel Sale!