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Champagne glasses question


Andrew Fenton
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I've got a question about the history of champagne glasses. Most of the glasses that I see in restaurants, homes or in various media are tall, skinny flutes. But if you watch old movies (I started wondering about this while watching Casablanca this weekend), most people drink their champagne from saucer-shaped glasses. So at some point the fashion changed, and I have two questions: when did this happen? and why?

To take the latter first, I can't imagine that it's because people became less interested in drinking from something shaped like Marie Antoinette's breast and more interested in drinking out of something long and skinny.

Flutes do have a technical advantage: they keep wine colder and bubblier. But I don't see why somebody in 1944 would want warm, flat champagne any more than somebody in 2004 would.

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It's a fair question, and I'm not sure there's a good answer. Although first used in England, the coupe glass (that's what it's called) seems to have been much more popular in the U.S. than the rest of the world. And if you are going to use Hollywood films as a reference point, then there you go.

But if you think about stemware for wine as a broader issue, it's only in recent years that we've become a-r over which glass to use with which wine.

I'll offer a theory (that is really just coming from the hip right now) on the coupe glass. If Champagne and other sparkling wines were poured at celebrations with large gatherings, my guess is you can more quickly and easily fill a table full of coupe glasses than flute glasses.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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My first eGullet post:

Flutes also have the advantage of smaller surface area, so a) you get the aromas in one focused place and b) your bubbles last longer. I'd believe b as a reason for the American switch rather than a.

Incidentally, the recommended Riedel glass for Moscato d'Asti is still the coupe, IIRC.

Derrick

Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

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A very warm welcome to eGullet, Derrick! I have read your website with no small amount of pleasure! Your links and writing are marvelously insightful ... Your opinion will be highly valued here, I daresay... it comes with a considerable amount of perception on the subject of food ... :biggrin:

back to the glasses again ... :hmmm: but a big welcome!!

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Flutes also have the advantage of smaller surface area, so a) you get the aromas in one focused place and b) your bubbles last longer.

these were always the reasons i'd heard, and and experience more or less bears that out.

get a flute and a coupe, pour equal shares of the same bubbly in, smell them, leave them lying around a while, and see what happens.

there's also a notion that the flutes better display the wine. i can't really argue with that, unless you happen to be in a coupe-stacking mode, which seems to have gone out with Busby Berkeley. there is, of course, this potential downside, which i can't even begin to touch.

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Yeah, I don't think anyone would argue against flutes (or trumpets -- although I'd still prefer the flute). For all the reasons mentioned. You can even linger over a glass of the stuff. With a coupe, it's gulp and go -- which is usually what happens with sparkling wine for an overwhelming majority of the population. For me, Champagne happens to be one of the best food wines around.

The cranial thing has to do with any piece of stemware that causes you to tilt your head back because your nose won't fit inside the bowl.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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I'll offer a theory (that is really just coming from the hip right now) on the coupe glass.  If Champagne and other sparkling wines were poured at celebrations with large gatherings, my guess is you can more quickly and easily fill a table full of coupe glasses than flute glasses.

Hmm. Good point about filling lots of coupes (though, contrariwise, how often are styles of glasses and so forth determined by this kind of mass setting?) I suppose that you can have a cheaper, more dramatic setting with a table of coupes, especially when they're stacked. But on the other hand, a table of flutes would be more efficient, space-wise.

Derricks's (welcome!) and jbonne's point about bubbles is of course right. Which is exactly what I was wondering about in the first place: it's not exactly rocket science to know that less surface area will keep your wine bubblier, focus the smell, et cetera. So why did the switch take so long?

Rather than assume that people were stupider back in the old days, I'd like to think that the coupe has or had some sort of advantage. Maybe champagne was different a century ago. Less bubbly? I've read that sweeter champagne was more popular then, and I suppose that sweet, flat wine would be better than dry and flat. Maybe people drank faster, so it mattered less?

For what it's worth, I tend to think that champagne saucers just look cooler. But maybe that's because I like those old movies... Anyway, interesting point about coupes' popularity in the US. Didn't know that.

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Coupes make great ice cream, mousse or fruit salad dishes. For sparkling wines, however, I prefer the flute.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Thanks for the warm welcome, all (and kind words about OWF, Melissa).

The cranial tilt thing was totally fascinating. Who knew?

what ever happened to straws?

Aren't straws making a comeback with splits? I seem to remember seeing something about that.

The Art of the Table doesn't shed light on the subject, but it does mention seven different shapes: tulip ("preferred by wine connoisseurs"; this is what I think of as a flute with a long body and a little bit of a belly; flute and trumpet ("a form based on the rhyton, an ancient vessel attributed to the primeval custom of drinking from the horns of animals"); saucer, sherbet, and coupe (variations on a theme, "not recommended by wine connoisseurs"); and the "hollow-stem glass" with a bowl that goes all the way to the base ("not favored by wine buffs...but for sheer drama no other champagne glass can compare").

None of this answers the question, unfortunately, but I thought it was an interesting side comment.

Derrick

Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

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Aren't straws making a comeback with splits? I seem to remember seeing something about that.

sorta. Niebaum-Coppola introduced a straw with their split equivalent (in a can) and it wouldn't surprise me if Pommery Pop or the Heidsieck split were being served that way in clubs.

Actually Pommery Pop had a "campaign," if it can be called that, about serving the split with a straw. Where I'm surprised with splits is that I've not seen anyone drinking the contents straight from the bottle. I'm sure it's been done, though. Just not in my field of vision.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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I personally prefer to drink champagne from a coupe. :smile:

I don't usually let it sit around long enough to lose its bubbles, and I feel it's more elegant to drink from the coupe - I never felt comfortable craning my neck while in the midst a conversation, and champagne and conversation go hand in hand. :laugh:

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Actually Pommery Pop had a "campaign," if it can be called that, about serving the split with a straw. Where I'm surprised with splits is that I've not seen anyone drinking the contents straight from the bottle.

the folks back in France must be shuddering in silence. myself, i'm waiting for the campaign that just says: "Chug!"

followed by the popular introduction of the Champagne bong.

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Bubbles stay better and are visually more appealing in a flute. You can get a better look at the "mousse" and texture and number of the bubbles in the long tall glass.

I just ordered splits of Pommery POP to be served at our outdoor cafe with straws. It's just too cute, but will go over well with the crowd here.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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My first eGullet post:

Flutes also have the advantage of smaller surface area, so a) you get the aromas in one focused place and b) your bubbles last longer. I'd believe b as a reason for the American switch rather than a.

Incidentally, the recommended Riedel glass for Moscato d'Asti is still the coupe, IIRC.

Derrick

Derrick, welcome to eGullet! You have a great blog going and I hope you'll consider coming to our upcoming Northern California potluck!

Also, if you come up to Napa, drop me a line...

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the folks back in France must be shuddering in silence. myself, i'm waiting for the campaign that just says: "Chug!"

This slogan would be better for Krug :biggrin::wacko::rolleyes:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I inherited old crystal from the 30's and it has coupes. My 1st husband had his folks' sometime pre-50's with coupes (his china had 2 handle bouillon cups, too), Late 60's I bought some crystal, coupes in that brand, too. (My second had no dowry. :rolleyes: )I suspect that the flutes became popular in in the 70's or early 80's.

Personally I prefer drinking champagne from flutes as I find balancing the coupe without danger of sloshing. Coupes are beautiful for dessert.

"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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I happened to be in Munich during the time of the Pommery POP launch, and I can confirm that the splits were served in clubs with matching black and blue mini straws. Aside from the lack of olfactory stimulation, drinking carbonated beverages through a straw really heightens the 'tingliness' of the bubbles!

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The shape of glasses in which to drink wine is always based upon concentrating, conserving, and enhancing the odor and flavor of the wine. To this end, the French invented the shapes of glasses to match the wine (and, I would imagine, to sell glasses), and that is why the flute is the best for champagne.

It might not be the best shape for sparkling white wines that are not champagne, so there may yet be a place for the coupe -- let your nose be your guide. Flutes are the easiest wine glasses to hold and the coupe is the easiest to spill.

For French speakers there is more here: http://www.louis-dousset.com/degust.htm

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