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Don't Discard your Champagne Flutes- Yet

Posted: Thursday, 14 September 2017 11:23

 

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Blog : Don't Discard your Champagne Flutes- Yet

Sep 14: Although the saucer type wine glasses for champagne (coupes) have been finally out of style in India after overstaying their welcome by a couple of decades, the flutes that were advised by experts are also going out of fashion and being replaced by tulips or white wine glasses, thanks to the experts changing their views due to the perceived limitations of full aromas in the flute which is likely to be replaced by different designs based on the tulip shapes

Click For Large ViewWhen the wine bug caught me around three decades ago, opening wine and champagne bottles was a fascinating ritual; so was serving in the proper glasses. No more of the ornate Bohemian and Waterford crystal I had been collecting over the years. Principally, the glass had to be stemware (with a long stem to hold and swirl the glass). It had to be light and plain so one could see the liquid inside, the bowl had to be bigger for red wine to release its aromas and proportionately narrow at the top.

And yes, for champagne (everything in bubbles in India was champagne-there was no Prosecco available anyway and Ca(h)va implied the Kashmiri tea made with herbs and spices and drunk to digest food) must be served in flutes. This was also perplexing to most Indians who believed that flute was an instrument Lord Krishna used to play!

Click For Large ViewServing the bubbles in coupe-a saucer shaped glass in which I used to eat ice-cream while growing up in Delhi has an interesting story. Legend has it that the coupe was moulded from Marie Antoinette's left breast in the 17th century as she wanted her court to toast her health by drinking from glasses shaped like her breast. Though it is well-established now that these glasses were invented much before her breasts, there are similar anecdotes in history details of which can be seen in the 2012 Article of Huffington Post.

About 15-20 years ago I used to spend a considerable time in admonishing the banqueting staff of hotels which invariably served champagne in the coupes. There were even competitions in erecting champagne towers where a multi-storied tower at different levels would be made by the sommeliers (actually wine waiters then), with the champagne poured from the top and trickling to the bottom-most glass. They might have been the perfect glass in the Pre-prohibition decadent era in the USA but it was time to retire them from our bars and restaurants serving champagne. Mercifully, the hotel industry caught on to the changing times finally and now flutes are easily available and generally used to serve champagne and all bubblies.

No Flutes please, says Maggie

Click For Large ViewEnter Maggie Henríquez, CEO of Krug Champagne from LVMH, owners of champagne brands like Moet Chandon, Krug, Veuve Clicquot, Ruinart, Dom Perignon and of course Chandon, protesting strongly against the use of Champagne flutes.  During the launch of Krug 2004 in Hong Kong she insisted that Flutes only diminish the whole sparkling wine experience.

“Using a flute is like going to a concert with ear plugs because it will not let you enjoy what is inside, because good Champagne before anything is a good wine. This is the first line in the little book of the founder, Joseph Krug,” she stressed, adding “Flutes are for bad champagne, sorbet or gazpacho, but not to drink Champagne.”

An engineer by profession, her statement merits attention but she is not the first one to have expressed the opinion. At a few of the international wine competitions where I have been judging for a dozen years, there have been cases of white wine glasses or even the tulip shaped glasses that she and Krug recommend,

Click For Large ViewShe is not the first one or the last champagne specialist propagating tulips or at least discouraging flutes. Elise Losfelt, the fourth generation winemaker at Moet & Chandon was in India in April 2015 promoting Moet Ice Impérial. Serving champagne in the white wine glasses she told me that she was not a fan of flutes and felts that with the flute you could get an unpleasant whiff of carbon dioxide on your nose and with the short rim, one tended to have the liquid touch the middle of the palate and not the front so one missed out a little on the full flavours.

She conceded when I told her they served the champ in the flutes in their winery when I visited Champagne couple of years ago, reasoning that most visitors were used to tasting champagne in the Flutes and it was easier to serve them in the way they were used to. Personally, she preferred drinking in a white wine glass.

While I wonder what Ms. Maggie Henríquez would have to say about the champ on Ice, I noticed almost all the champagne houses served it in flutes when I had visited Champagne in 2015- Veuve Clicquot was one of the exceptions.

It has been fashionable to serve champagne and other sparkling wine in flutes for around three decades but the trend is gradually changing in favour of white wine glasses, especially for the high quality champagne and tulips which are quite popular in India.

Click For Large ViewWith a regular wine glass, the bowl and larger opening allow for more oxygen to enter the wine, and therefore more aromas to be released; besides it’s much easier and less awkward to stick your nose inside.

Flute, Tulip or white wine glass?

So what should be the correct solution? As in most things in wine, it is a subjective matter with no correct one answer except there are certain guidelines (depending on the current fashion or trends like in the current case). If you enjoy sparkling wine for the bubbles or want to look cool and a party animal flute would still be fine for a few more years.. However, if you order a nice vintage champagne and want to enjoy the wine’s bouquet and flavours, take out a regular white wine glass instead. But no Marie Antoinette’s left breast-Coupe please! Use them for making cocktails or serving ice cream after dinner, with liqueur, fruits or any other garnishes that make the use of a glass more appropriate, inside the coupe.

If you need to buy new champagne glasses you may consider buying tulips which have a slightly bigger bowl at the bottom tapering of to a wider rim on top. But surely, if someone serves champagne or any sparkling wine in a tulip or more likely a white wine glass, assume he knows where the future is headed!

Subhash Arora

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