Once again, the Champagne flute comes under attack. As the (self-appointed) defender of this much-maligned vessel for the finest of wines–those of the sparkling variety–I am compelled to retort.
The latest salvo can be found on a site where I had the pleasure of making numerous contributions: Grape Collective. Specifically a column by David White, who I recall fondly from a sweltering Wine Bloggers Conference where he showed up at the end of a day’s programming with cold beer. (Hero, BTW.) It has the title, “Forget the Flute and Toss the Coupe“. I love a good rhyme; this part of White’s editorial made me smile. Thus my response has a headline that serves as a tip of the hat. (Though it doesn’t flow as nice, damnit.)
Anyway, the column begins with this quote:
“Flutes?” asked Sebastian Zutant, a leading sommelier in Washington, D.C., with obvious disdain. “We’re adults; we use real wine glasses.”
Well then call me a big baby. But instead of sporting a sippy cup, I tote a Champagne flute. Really, I’d rather be an unhappy toddler with soiled diapers than be subjected to this patronizing, condescending attitude.
White (who shares Zutant’s conviction) does have a more nuanced critique of the flute: “It was designed purely for aesthetics; the glass’s slender walls preserve and accentuate Champagne’s bubbles but do nothing for its aromas.”
What’s so wrong with aesthetics? Accentuating bubbles? Taking pleasure in form as well as the delight emanating from a mesmerizing cascade of bubbles? It’s celebratory, whether for a wedding or a Wednesday night. And a flute is sexy as hell.
I was reminded of a comment from a reader on my prior flute missive. When you see flutes, you see fun:
Post a picture of an empty wine glass (any shape or size) and the viewer is reminded of wine – any wine. Post a picture of an empty flute and the viewer sees BUBBLES! It is such great branding that I fail to see how anyone (for whatever reason) would want to change it.
Let’s go back to the main beef with the flute: it dulls Champagne’s smell. White quotes Jordan Mackay, who explains, “[Champagne] deserves a full, real wine glass with both shape and dimension. Such a vessel is much more flattering to the aromatics, allowing you both to smell the wine better (which is 90% of tasting it) and to take a much more meaningful sip.”
Well when I look at the design of the flute versus a “real” wine glass, I believe you are NOT losing out on the wine’s aromatics. Allow me to make my point via this highly technical reference material. That I created. (DUH.)
1. The narrow shape of the flute forces bubbles on a vigorous upward trajectory.
2. The flute is filled close to the brim.
3. Therefore, your nose less than an inch away from the wine. So you can take advantage of the aromas carried via bubbles which, focused by the flute, are concentrated right at the site of your olfactory receptors.
4. Thus stimulated and refreshed after a luxurious sip, you reach for some almonds with sea salt.
For equal time, fair/balanced, etc: My podcast with David Speer of Ambonnay, who prefers a Burgundy (white or red) glass for Champagne
Unhappy toddler in tub via Yogi.