Sipping champagne, sparkling wine or crement out of a glass designed specifically to enhance its taste is essential to the total champagne experience. An expensive bottle of champagne deserves having its flavors and essence delivered in the vessel that produces the experience that champagne is meant to evoke. Whether it’s a celebration or the beginning of an evening of fine dining, the ritual of pouring and drinking champagne includes holding the stem of a crystal glass, admiring the blend’s color, watching as its bubbles travel the length of the glass, and holding the crystal to your lips and sipping the nectar. The right glass is as important to drinking it as the champagne itself.
The coupe, a flat-bottomed bowl that looks like a saucer and sits atop the stem, was the popular champagne glass style in the early 20th Century. Elegant and at one time stylish, the glass enhanced the taste of the sweet champagne served during the Roaring Twenties as well as in the 1960s. Laden with extra sweet syrup, the taste of the champagne did not depend on sparkling bubbles, but instead, laid quietly in the glass. The heady aroma of the champagne dissipated quickly in the bowl, and its shape invited hands wrapping themselves around the bowl, in effect, warming the champagne and further damaging the experience. Today, the coupe is more often found as a serving dish for dessert.
The champagne flute is the most popular glass shape for any sparkling wine. Tall and narrow, a long stem supports the gently rounded or pointed base that lets the bubbles bounce back up through the glass. This adds essence, aroma and elegance to the champagne. One drawback to the flute is that the top is often narrow, preventing the nose from experiencing the aroma before sipping, an essential step in the process of enjoying a glass of champagne. Young champagne and sparkling wine blends do well in the flute as their aromas haven’t developed over time. An aged wine needs a broader sipping rim, such as that on a Burgundy glass. A new twist on the flute is the double-walled glass, where the flute is encased in an outer shell of glass that acts as a thermos. The interior flute stays cool, while the heat and fingerprints of the hand remain on the exterior.
The wider bowl of the tulip allows the champagne more space for aeration, which means the flavor and aromas have time to develop before the liquid is consumed. Fill the tulip only to the center of the bowl, trapping the rich aroma of the blend within the glass before it wafts into the nose and spills onto the tongue. Since drinking is about the experience of the champagne as well as its taste, the tulip is recommended for drinking finer champagne and crement, in which the enhanced flavor warrants the higher price tag and more appropriate glass.
Stemless Champagne Glasses
Stemless glasses for wine and champagne are a new trend. They allow the bubbles to bounce around the rounded bottom and float back up to the top, but there’s no place to hold the glass unless you wrap your hand around the bowl. The heat of the hand warms the champagne, diminishing its taste, not to mention the hand and fingerprints that soon decorate an elegant glass.
Crystal Versus Glass
Crystal glassware, whether leaded or lead-free, has minerals in its make-up. Those minerals cause light refraction, making the champagne in the glass shine and appear alive. The mineral composition of the crystal also allows it to be cast very thin, yielding a lovely, rich echo when one glass is lightly tapped into another, in the traditional champagne toast. Glass, while stronger than crystal, doesn’t shine like its more expensive counterpart.
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