Bubbles demand room to breathe

By Yvonne Lorkin

If  you lamented the loss of the old style of Champagne saucer, or "coupe", then you'll be pleased to know that its usurper, the "flute", may also soon be turfed into untrendy territory. For umpteen years the coupe was rumoured to have been modelled on the breasts of a well known female French aristocrat and, among a host of others, contenders included Marie Antoinette, Empress Josephine, Madame du Pompadour and Helen of Troy, apparently.

Nice idea I suppose, but the rumours hold little water when you take timelines into account. Apparently, Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) had Champagne glasses created from casts of her breasts so that her courtiers could drink to her health while Empress Josephine (1763-1814) had a Champagne addiction which crippled Napoleon's wallet, so it's easy to see how the legend could involve her.

Madame du Pompadour (1721-1764) was the mistress whose bust so captivated Louis XV that he longed to drink Champagne from them - so it's said she had glasses modelled on her mammaries crafted as a gift for him. And it may have been Helen of Troy's face that was the stuff of legend (remember it launched a thousand ships?) but it was her breasts her lover Paris made wax moulds of and fashioned into drinking glasses.

However, Champagne was actually invented in the 17th century by a Benedictine monk who pioneered a way to trap carbon dioxide bubbles inside a bottle of wine and the coupe glass was created in England in 1663 especially for this new, sparkling sensation.

Ten points for observation if you've concluded Marie Antoinette, Josephine and Du Pompadour weren't even born then and if Helen of Troy even actually existed, she predates the invention of bubbles by about 2000 years.

But back to flutes. They took over from the coupe in the 1980s as the de rigueur drinking vessel for Champagne, but now Champagne houses are moving away from using flutes for their fizz in favour of white wine glasses, according to glassware manufacturer Georg Riedel in a recent www.thedrinksbusiness.com report.

"The Champenois are starting to serve their sparklers in white wine glasses as the larger surface areas give more aromas, complexity and a creamier texture," Riedel said. "Flutes are too narrow and don't allow the aroma and richness of the Champagne to shine as there isn't enough air space," he added, revealing that flutes are often mistakenly filled to the top, leaving the wine no room to breathe. "Ideally, a flute should only be half full, or, better still, a third full in order to release a Champagne's aromatic potential," he said.

The company has developed a new glass for sparkling wines which is aesthetically closer to a white wine glass, sort of a cross between a flute and the ISO wine tasting glasses often used at wine competitions.

"Our new glasses don't look anything like a traditional flute. They're much bigger and rounder," Riedel told www.thedrinksbusiness.com, Europe's leading drinks trade online magazine.

But not everyone is happy about this new trend. Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger wants to retain the flute for Champagne to differentiate it from still wine.

"Champagne is not only a wine but a symbol of love and generosity and if we forget that we are dead," he stated at a Master of Wine event in London in December. According to Taittinger this trend is the work of "marketers who want us to drink Champagne in a wine glass. But we have a specific glass ... and Champagne is not a wine but a great symbol," he explained.

Personally, I prefer the new style of glass; I think it definitely accentuates the delicate aromas and classic textures of good sparkling wine - I'm just not sure what to call it. Half flute, half glass, it's more of a "flass", which sounds a tad more acceptable than a "glute". For information on how and where to buy see www.hancocks.co.nz

- Hamilton News

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