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  • Writer's pictureLushmuddled

Getting Nerdy with Glasses

Updated: Jan 17, 2021

Champagne (*cough* sparkling wine *cough*) is easily the most recognised type of wine in the world. It is probably the most widely drunk and has been the drink of choice for celebrations of all kinds. On the off chance you're having a glass of the fizz tonight, it is likely that you're drinking it out of a flute - a thin and tall bit of glassware designed specifically for bubbles, though there are other options. No, I am not talking about the coffee mugs or plastic cups from your student days. Back in the 1930s and up to the 1980s, champagne bowls were the stemware of choice and today many high end restaurants now serve champagne in tulip glasses, or a thinner white wine glass. One day, I cannot remember why, I decided to put these to the test. Clearly this was a situation of 'too much time on my hands.'


Firstly, and I cannot stress this enough, what I have done is not a definitive you must to it this way guide. Drink out of whatever makes you happy. If you like using flutes, please keep on doing that. If you prefer your sparkling from a water pistol, please invite me over because I want in on that action. I am not here to tell you otherwise.


WARNING: NERDY STUFF TO FOLLOW.

A white wine glass, a champagne flute and a coupe were all tested to see which one would work best!
The glassware and, of course, the bubbles!

Champagne flutes have been the most enduring glassware for bubbles, and are so common they need no description. They date to the 1700s when the use of glassware finally became more common than ceramic or metal. The major benefits are that it is held by a long stem, keeping your warm hands away from the wine, and that it is thin. Because of something to do with volume to surface area, this keeps the bead (the bubbles) and mousse (the foam) consistent. A wider surface area makes the sparkling seem less, well, sparkly.


This is the main critique of the bowl, also called coupe, if you're feeling fancy. The story goes that its shape was inspired by the breast of Madam de Pompadour, though I've also heard them called Cleopatra's Nipples too. It's a safe bet that the design has very little to do with women's bosoms, and definitely not Cleopatra's as the design dates to 1600s. The bowl obviously has a wider surface area, so the mousse disappears at a faster rate and the aroma isn't captured. It is also generally held by the bowl and this warms the wine up. The benefit of them is probably just how damned fancy they look.


The tulip glass is, I think, the most visually appealing. It is more widely flared and the rim of the glass tapers in, meaning it captures and directs aroma. Like a flute, it has a long stem which keeps your hot hands away from the cold wine. Professionally, this seems to be the way to go. I have seen tulips gain prominence in wine bars and restaurants for several years.


Firstly, it needs to be said that while I adore the shape of the tulip glasses, I don't own any. This ruled them out of my little test. As a replacement, I used the Reidel Riesling glass, which carries a similar shape. I also had a fairly typical flute glass and an antique 1930s lead crystal bowl on hand. The sparkling of choice was Centennial Vineyards Blanc de Noir NV, which comes from the Southern Highlands in NSW, Australia. In the interest of owning my bias, I thought that the Riedel would well and truly be my favourite, and the bowl massively disappointing.


The Flute

The mousse was largely consistent and this kept it feeling fresh. But the aroma is hard to get at - it's really hard to stick your nose into that particular glass. Also, because it isn't tapered in, the perfume vanishes very quickly out of the glass. The small opening also means that the wine is directed into your mouth only over a centimetre or so. It feels overly focused, and makes a beeline to your throat. To get a sense of flavour, I had to deliberately wash the wine around my mouth to activate my taste buds.


The Bowl

This honestly surprised me. Firstly, it is really difficult to tell where the fill line is. This makes it easy to overfill the glass (Roaring Forties decadence, anyone?) and handling it can be tricky. That said, holding it makes you feel like a Bond villain, and these should absolutely be your glass of choice when scheming. The aroma is very different. It is certainly present, but it is much more gentle when compared to the flute - imagine walking through spray of perfume. It's very delicate, but very enticing at the same time. Unlike the flute, this has a very wide mouth. Sipping from the bowl allows the wine to cover your entire mouth instantly, and you get a much richer sensation as your entire palate is activated at once. Truly, the glass of the Golden Age and it definitely makes you want to dress to the nines.


The White Wine Glass

This is a great wine glass for swirling, which allows aroma to build. But, unfortunately, swirling your glass of bubbles is great way to make it go flat pretty quickly because physics is a harsh mistress. So while I got a great sense of smell from this glass, I also lost out on a lot of texture from the sparkling wine which both the flute and bowl kept. In the end, I found that this was a great glass if you wanted to investigate and study the wine, but not if you wanted to sit down, relax and enjoy it.


So, in the end and after several tastings and re-tastings (it's considered scientific to repeat your experiments, after all) here's my decision. In first place, with striking design and effortless charm, is the bowl. Something about this made me drink sparkling wine in a whole different way and the fact that it gave a much richer feel to the wine was wonderful. In second place comes the Riedel. While I found the wine did go flatter faster, it also gave the best perfume. Surprisingly, I liked the flute - the most common type of glass - the least. It provided little to no aroma and I think a much more one dimensional view of the wine. So, while it may look pretentious, next time I'm going full Fred Astaire and using the bowl.

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