Did you know that it's perfectly acceptable to drink Champagne out of a wine glass instead of a champagne flute? In fact this is actually the preferred way and is an old trend that has been getting a lot of attention again lately.
Champagne flutes were actually designed to trap the bubbles so that they flowed vertically for aesthetic purposes. The only problem? They also trap the scent of the sparkling wine, making it impossible to get a whiff with each sip (a major part of the experience.) Drinking higher-end brands will taste better in a coupe or simple wine glass because it emphasizes the aroma and fizz in better and more complex champagnes.
Ironically, Dom Pérignon himself has been credited with adopting the flute for Champagne so that he could “watch the dance of the sparkling atoms.” But Olivier Krug, Krug’s house director and great-great-great-grandson of the founder, insists, “A great Champagne cannot offer its fullest expression in a narrow glass.”
Cédric Bouchard -- named Champagne’s finest winemaker in 2008 by the Gault & Millau guidebook -- acknowledges that the flute showcases the stream of bubbles that rise from the bottom of the glass. “But,” he adds, “it doesn’t allow the aromas to escape nor the wine to breathe.” Both the flute and the coupe, Bouchard surmises, “were first used and continue to be utilized with the idea that Champagne is something to be seen more than tasted.”
In Italy, one of the largest Champagne consumers in the world, it’s always served in a wine glass, Galloni says, “as an acknowledgment that Champagne is a wine.” As such, he advocates “responding to the grape” as one would with any other wine, thinking of a chardonnay-based Champagne as a chardonnay first and a Champagne second. For a blanc de blancs (100 percent chardonnay), he likes an all-purpose white-wine glass; for a blanc de noirs (usually 100 percent pinot noir), he’d choose a larger Burgundy glass, like Riedel’s Sommeliers Burgundy Grand Cru, to accommodate the tannins, structure and what he calls the “amplitude” of the wine.
“There is something nice about the flute,” Galloni allows. “It’s like a skyscraper. There’s something elating and uplifting about that long glass. But if you drink a really well-made wine out of a flute, it’s like wearing a shoe that’s a size too small.” And like a shoe -- small or not -- a flute can be a status symbol, Bouchard points out. “In a restaurant, other tables will notice right away that you’re drinking Champagne if it’s in a flute, whereas in a white-wine glass, the identity of the beverage is not so easily distinguished.”
So there you have it... Next time you're ordering sparkling wine or Champagne at a restaurant ask for it in a wine glass and slyly smirk as you watch a scandal unfold before you.