Ready to refresh your sparkling wine game for the holidays? There’s nobody better to inquire about proper champagne glasses than Maximilian Riedel, CEO and president of Riedel Crystal and 11th-generation glassmaker from the nearly 300-year-old family business of revolutionizing the glassware industry. While you may be familiar with the long, wide pear shape of the traditional Bordeaux glass or the bulbous globe of the Pinot Noir or Chardonnay glass, the company’s brand-new design is for champagne. It’s not a flute or a coupe (saucer), as you may be accustomed to; in fact, it looks nothing like either.
If you’re curious as to how to improve upon the iconic champagne glasses of yore, allow us to enlighten you.
It seems like the champagne saucer of the old days and the flute that’s associated with modern champagne drinking have nothing in common. How did we get from point A to point B?
The coupe and flute were developed at the same time in the 19th century, each shape created to serve different purposes. The coupe was intended to use when drinking champagne as a dessert wine (because champagne tended to be sweeter in those days), and dipping cake into the wide bowl was easy. The flute grew in popularity thanks to its less spill-friendly shape. Over the years, each has enjoyed periods of vogue — the coupe in the 1920s (think Gatsby) and the flutes in recent history. Today, both are still iconic shapes and signify a celebration. Our champagne wineglass, however, aims to change all that.
Riedel’s new glass seems like a perfect marriage of both old and new design. Was there a turning point when it became clear that flutes were not necessarily the ideal vessel for fully appreciating the nuances of sparkling wine?
We noticed sommeliers and champagne producers beginning to dismiss the flute in favor of the larger bowls of white-wine glasses years ago. Even earlier than that, however, champagne producers believed their wines benefited from more breathing room in the glass. We have worked with the chefs de cave of various houses through sensory workshops to create shapes with more curves and contours than the traditional narrow, linear shape of a flute. Through our workshops testing with producers and champagne experts and in our own research, we realized that the flute wasn’t showing all of the complexities of champagne aromas and flavors at their absolute best. We determined that the best shape would be one that gives the wine enough room to open up in the glass with a narrow enough rim to trap all of its aromas, which we perfected in the Veritas champagne wineglass.
What are you missing when you drink champagne out of a flute? Conversely, what are you missing when you drink champagne out of a saucer?
A narrow flute restricts the expression of champagne’s aromas and flavors. The coupe’s extra-wide mouth overexposes champagne to air, allowing the aromas (and effervescence) to escape quickly. Enjoying from our champagne wineglasses will help exhibit all of the complexities of the wine at its absolute best.
Tell me a little about the “sparkling point” in the base of the bowl and how it facilitates carbonation.
Since seeing the lovely stream of bubbles is an important part of the champagne experience, we included a point mousse or “sparkling point,” a tiny groove in the base of the bowl that helps aid in the formation of the bubbles. The scratched surface at the bottom of the glass gives the bubbles a place to form, whereas a completely smooth surface is less likely to encourage bubbles. This unique feature also prolongs the presence of bubbles in a glass.
It drives me crazy when I see people holding their champagne glasses by the bowl instead of the stem. As a professional, how would you politely advise someone on the proper way to hold a champagne glass? Would you say anything?
Our glasses are always designed with a clear bowl, with no color or adornments, so that every element of the wine-drinking experience is as pristine as possible. While I would never want to embarrass someone by correcting him, I might remark upon the hue of the champagne in my glass, to perhaps help them realize to do the same.
How long you should take to drink a glass of champagne?
Effervescence and temperature are equally important parts of the champagne experience. Champagne should be ice-cold and consumed within a reasonable time frame. Begin with bubbly chilled to about 48 degrees Fahrenheit, and enjoy the wine before it warms above 55 degrees. If you drink the champagne within that time frame, its bubbles should still be ample.