Something Old, Something New
Welcome 2016! It is a brand new year, and an exciting new beginning in so many ways. You’ve just gotta love January—the one month that offers us this extraordinary opportunity to decide on which stuff (or habits) we are happy to keep, and which stuff we need to purge.
In other words, what works, and what doesn’t? It is that simple.
The wine world recently had a new beginning in the realm of glassware. Over the centuries, we have seen many developments in the shape and size of wine glasses. The design of each glass is scientifically determined so that the wine is delivered to your taste buds in a way that maximizes the positive components of the wine (like fruit), and de-emphasizes the negative components (like high acid and bitter tannins).
For example, wines that are very crisp like Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling are best served in glasses that taper inward at the top. This directs the wine to the center of our palate, missing the taste buds for acidity that are on the side of our tongue. The wine is not changed at all, but our “perception” of the wine becomes more balanced because we taste more fruit and less tartness.
On the other hand, wines that are very sweet and fruity tend to do best in glasses that are wider at the top, directing the wine toward the sides of our tongue in order to bring out the little bit of acidity that is there. This helps to balance the sweetness in the wine, and help it to taste less cloying.
For Champagne and sparkling wines, the recommended shape of the glass has changed drastically over the years. One of the first glasses to be used was called the “coupe,” and was designed somewhere back in the eighteenth century. Legend has it that Marie Antoinette was quite fond of Champagne. When she heard that they were looking to design a Champagne glass that was modeled after a perfect woman’s breast, she immediately
volunteered for the job. I guess you could say that she left her imprint on the wine industry.
The coupe is shaped like a wide-mouthed saucer that can double as a nice ice cream dish. It is sometimes still used at weddings, although it is not considered to be efficient because the large exposure of the sparkling wine to air allows all of those marvelous bubbles to dissipate too quickly.
So, soon thereafter, the shape of the glass was once again reviewed. It was decided that the surface area of wine exposed needed to be diminished to save the bubbles. Voilà—the “flute.” (Contrary to what many people think, this was not modeled after a body part.) The flute was received wonderfully, and it worked! The carbonation stayed longer in the glass, and the tall, elongated shape allowed us to view the delightful stream of bubbles as they ascended to the opening above. Since Champagne is sometimes judged by the size and length of the bubbles, the flute was particularly admired by wine judges and critics. Plus, the glasses were so romantic.
The flute still lives on in a big way. But the Riedel Company of Austria, one of the most respected wine glass producers in the world, has announced that there may be an even better vehicle for the sparklers. As they studied the flute, it was determined that the subtle aromas of great Champagne were not given enough room to develop in the glass, and therefore escaped detection by the human nose. Quelle horreur!
By making the bowl of the glass slightly wider, and then narrowing it towards the top (sort of like an egg shape), you get the best of both worlds. There is plenty of room for those elegant aromas to develop, and still a limited surface area for the bubbles to escape. Not to mention, the glass holds more, and is less likely to overflow. It is a total win-win.
So the flute is moot. The new glass is called the Riedel Veritas Champagne glass, and a set of two will cost you about $70. Interestingly enough, Riedel has also re-introduced the coupe, but it is specifically made for cocktails!
After surveying many wine loving friends, I was surprised to hear how many people had given up the flute. Several restaurants and wine bars are now serving Champagne in white wine-style glasses, which also work well.
This month at Mountain Home, we are all about weddings. And with weddings comes Champagne. So if you’re venturing into a new beginning this year in the form of a marriage, start your nuptials off right: treat yourself to a set of Riedel Veritas. They are sure to stay in style. Well, at least for another hundred years or so!