The Champagne Glass:
Historically when talking about Champagne / Sparkling stemware - people were referring to either the narrow flute or coupe / saucer stemware used in the presenting of Champagne and other sparkling wines. Though for more than 20 years now, Champagne is more ideally presented, served and definitely enjoyed a great deal more in a ‘tulip’ shape glass or for a growing number of more generous style Champagnes in an ‘aromatic’ white wine glass.
In the early 1900’s the preference for drinking Champagne was from a very open style glassware the coupe / saucer. But this merely had the effect of giving a large surface area which let the carefully orchestrated bubbles / CO2 gas and delicate aromas escape more quickly leaving the wine flat and characterless.
Then in the 1970’s through to the late 1990’s the narrow flute dominated the scene. As sparkling wine was slightly sweeter than it is today and was being made in more simple styles and quickly in large pressurised-tanks, so had a lower pressure and fewer number of bubbles and a more simple character.
Today wine and glass producers believe that a fine slender stemmed glass, with a more generously curved bowl and larger volume glass not only shows the wines character more attractively, plus allows the delicate aromas elevated by the bubbles to be highlighted and appreciated with each sip, plus the wine lands in the middle of the palate. As Champagne & quality sparkling wines are drier than they once were and should be received by your sensory receptors on the middle of the tongue that appreciate dry wine styles - rather than the front of the mouth, tip of the tongue where you have your sweet receptors - which will be disappointed by a dry wine landing there.
Plus you need a slightly larger volume to the glass bowl so the aromas can develop-gather and express themselves to your nose as you take each sip. This also allows you to pour 150ml of sparkling wine into the glass and not have it completely fill the glass - reducing the development of any aromas and making it hard to serve, take the first sip, plus the sparkling wine will be forced again to the front of your palate. The tall, narrow flute shaped glass - are fine for simple sparkling wines *(as it can retain the bubbles and carbonation longer), and for sweeter styles of sparkling wine. But when it comes to enjoying a complex, quality Méthode Traditionnelle & Champagne in a tall, narrow glass - “it is like watching your favourite movie on a smart-phone with the volume off”. Everything is compressed and with no emotion.
• Yes - please do compare at home - so when you next go out and you have the opportunity to enjoy a quality Méthode / Champagne wine in a tall, narrow glass or a more generously curved tulip or even an aromatic white wine glass - you will be well informed how much more enjoyable it can be.
There are a number of glass producers crafting ideal shapes for the dynamic and engaging world of sparkling wine and Champagnes. You will have seen them appearing in fine wine retailers and fine dining restaurants & wine bars for a time.
The quality of well-crafted Champagne glasses is such, that they are so smooth on the inside surface of the glass (i.e. EISCH ‘SensisPlus’ Stemware shown below) - there are no imperfections on the glass wall to release the dissolved CO2 gas in the wine. So when poured the sparkling wine / Champagne will have fewer generated bubbles appearing in the glass and it might even look flat. Except from the specifically placed laser 'etch' made at the bottom of a select range of glasses - which gives a nucleation point for the bubbles / CO2 to be released - and this fine stream of bubbles actually presents a more subtle texture to the surface for the taster's lips and palate.
So the next time you have the opportunity to enjoy a quality Méthode / Champagne wine - do accept the offer of a more generously shaped tulip or aromatic white wine glass - you will definitely notice, and I am sure enjoy the difference. You will also understand why we suggest Champagne is more than just a toasting or aperitif style wine. As when served in a more generous glass you appreciate how much more character they have and can pair with more than just oysters - like whole grilled fish, chicken cuisine and complex Champagnes can stand-up to pork-n-crackling - enjoy the journey.
Opening a bottle of Champagne:
Champagne, of course does not require a corkscrew. But there is still a careful technique required when opening, which does not involve emulating the antics of a Formula-1 race-car winner and spraying the contents all over the crowd.
First - gently chill the Champagne down to 9°- 11°C for Vintage, Prestige Cuvée and 8°- 10°C for NV (non-vintage), Méthode Traditionnelle, Cava and 6°- 8°C for Sekt, Prosecco & Asti.
Start with the bottle standing upright on a table or flat surface. Locate the wire loop beneath the foil capsule; by feeling around the neck of the bottle (most bottles have an easy peel tab on the side). Then get your thumbnail behind the loop, pull it out and downwards, tearing away the capsule as you do so. Proceed to remove the rest of the capsule / foil.
Grasp the neck of the bottle, keeping your thumb firmly over the top of the cork. This will prevents it flying out with the potential to cause damage or even injury. Then untwist the wire loop-tie, and gently loosen the cage. *Do not loosen your grip though!
In my experience it makes the whole process so much easier if you keep the wire-cage on the cork, as the cage fits nicely into the sides of the cork and gives your hand something to grip and hold onto *(as most new corks are securely wedged into the neck of the bottle). Now, never taking your thumb from its secure position over the top of the cork, pick up the bottle. Firmly grasp the cork and cage between thumb and forefinger, and with the other hand hold and twist the base of the bottle. (Yes - twist the bottle, it is much easier to twist / turn the bottle than it is the cork - and you also do not loose your tight grip on the cork).
As the cork moves, control its release with your thumb. Continue twisting the bottle away from the cork. Its eventual slow release should be accompanied by a gentle sigh of escaping CO2 gas. A louder pop suggests that you have not controlled the extraction of the cork adequately, but as long as there is no loss of wine then this does not really matter.
Failure to control the cork at all, resulting in a fountain of Champagne, may produce a laugh and cheer, but ultimately this is just an expensive mistake and loss of Champagne.