If you keep your finger on the pulse of news in the wine world, you’ll know how many wine pros, chefs, winemakers, and even enthusiasts have taken to social media to express their opinions on Champagne flutes. So are flutes all they’re cracked up to be? Truthfully, the thought of using anything but a flute wasn’t something that crossed my mind until I read a Decanter article in early January. It turns out there is a heated debate raging over whether or not to use flutes, with high-credibility experts like Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, cellarmaster at Champagne Louis Roederer and Hugh Davies, CEO and winemaker at Schramsberg Vineyards coming out in the anti-flute camp. Unusually for me, I didn’t have an opinion either way in this debate, so, equipped with white wine glasses, flutes, and couple bottles of bubbly I went about conducting some rigorous personal research.
Making the case for flutes:
Holding a flute full of something fizzy just feels celebratory – even if it’s Tuesday night and you’re in the bathtub with a book (which I highly recommend). Not only do flutes feel good, they look good. The stranger at a party holding a flute radiates class. And, on a technical level, the shape of the glass preserves the bubbles, encourages those pretty beads to sparkle elegantly in the glass, and lifts aromas directly to the nose. So now you’re asking yourself, “why should I ditch my flutes if I feel good, look good and am tasting in the most effective way”? While flutes do efficiently preserve bubbles, they might not be the most effective tool to evaluate the wine’s aroma and taste.
Making the case for white wine glasses:
Some experts say that white wine glasses enable sparkling wine to aerate more easily, giving the imbiber a more intricate aromatic profile. When tasting bubbles, just like when tasting still wine, the larger the wine glass’s bowl, the easier aromatics are to sniff out. That being said, too big of a bowl, like the Marie Antoinette coupe, will cause bubbles to dissipate too quickly and encourage spills. If you’re serious about Champagne, then you already know that many of the top Champagne houses have already taken to designing glasses specifically for their house Champagne, striking a balance between preserving bubbles and encouraging effective tasting evaluations.
Cattier Brut Champagne
White Wine Glass
The nose had everything I had hoped for – grapefruit, toast, biscuit, lemon, earth, and minerality balanced with a very pretty florality. Flavours of ginger, brioche and green apple were distinct and bright. But the mousse was losing its sparkle. Impressively however, the brilliance of the palate makes up for the dissipated bubble (but, to be honest, Champagne never lasts that long in my glass anyway).
Since I knew what to expect on the nose from nosing the wine in a white wine glass, I was disappointed with the aromas coming from the flute. They were significantly more muted – the lemon and yeasty notes were present but they were closed and less brilliant. On the palate, the mousse was bright an as persistent as you would anticipate it to be, but the flavour profile was lacklustre compared to the sample from the white wine glass.
Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs
White Wine Glass
The nose has pronounced notes: yeast, cherry, strawberries and rhubarb. The palate is an open book: red apples, strawberry, raspberry and autolytic characteristics. For now, the bubbles are holding up impressively well.
Again, I find the nose more muted and the bright fruit characters take a back seat to the yeasty and more autolytic characters. Though that certainly is not a bad thing, it lacks a layer of complexity. Minerality and a candied strawberry flavour make a subtle impression, but the back palate falls a little flat until the finish. The flute seems to subdue the wine’s very pretty taste profile.
I should make it clear that that I would drink either of these bubbles from pretty much any vessel. While truthfully, I love the romantic, sexy look and feel of a flute, they seem to be stunting the complexity of the wines. The wine geek in me was won over by white wine glasses, which offered the allure of a complex nose and layered palate that trump those coming from a flute. Though I won’t be refusing sparkling wine from a flute anytime soon, I will enjoy more complex sparkling wines from white wine glasses and leave my flutes for cheap and cheerful Prosecco.
So now it’s up to you – does the feel of bubbles truly make sparkling wine for you? Or is it the palate that you lust over?