The Flute


The Champagne flute, named after the long, narrow musical instrument, seems to be losing favor with wine connoisseurs. I like the sound of this, because I have never felt comfortable imbibing from it. I have to tilt my head backward to keep it from bumping into my nose, and if it’s Champagne I certainly want the last drop. The theory is that Dom Perignon, a Benedictine monk from the seventeenth century and the inspiration for a Moet & Chandon brand, invented the flute to showcase the journey of the bubbles from the depths to the top. I have heard scientific rationalizations, as well, to the tune of fewer bubbles can escape in a limited surface area.

In addition to being an impractical glass, however, the flute constricts the aromas to a fine stream that numbs your nose. Champagne can be quite complex, and even a larger red wine glass can be more appropriate for, say, a Blanc de Noirs (using pinot noir and petit meunier). Typically, though, Blanc de Blancs, which is mostly if not all chardonnay, should be treated like any other white wine and served in a smaller, bowled glass. In fact, a rounded, tulip-shaped glass is used for tasting in the Champagne region. The well-known wine glass manufacturer Riedel in one of its latest lines, Veritas, does not include a flute at all; the Champagne glass is egg-shaped. 

There are differing opinions on whether you should swirl Champagne when tasting. The reason for moving any wine around a glass is to release the aroma notes and to oxygenate, but this technique can make Champagne flat. It’s true that wine changes the longer it is exposed to air, as it breathes, but you don’t want to sacrifice the ephemeral effervescence of this special sparkling wine. My advice to you is whirl away if tasting only a small amount, but hold on to the sanctity of your bubbles if drinking a glass for pleasure; and if swirling in a flute, which can be risky, don’t blow it! 

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