The Flute’s Last Waltz

The champagne flute is dead.  I cannot bring myself to say ‘Long live the flute’. So, just to be clear: it is now sensible and chic to serve champagne in good quality white wine glasses. The move is now normal, even de rigueur amongst champagne connoisseurs and hipster bubble freaks too.

I’m sure this may be a mild shock to many. Some will scoff. And I respect those who will get a little kicky, and say, so what, I’ll drink champagne or my coffee out of whatever I want thank you.  And don’t be such a social totalitarian. It’s amazing the heat the choice of wine glass can generate.  For the truly cynical, any innovation is just an excuse for the highfalutin (sorry) wine glass designers to fleece us. For the devoted, every new glass can be a goad for oodles of verbal pretension and stories of wonderful partnerships between a sommelier, a glass designer and a big champagne house.  Everywhere you go in Champagne you meet etch-branded designer glasses at every house or good single estate.

I guess it highlights too the chasms of social atomisation of lifestyle and culture now. I know people who don’t blink or cringe for a moment when they serve wine in all kinds of heavy, coloured or cut glass, reaching deep into cupboards to fish out grandmas inherited lumber or what was in the groovy kitchen shop. With heirlooms you are always forgiven, maybe.

It may all have started with Regan Hoffman’s piece in Punch, here, in 2014.  Hannah Goldfield weighed in too a year later with this. We are even told that the old saucer, or ‘coupe’, supposedly modelled on Marie Antoinette’s left breast, has made a come back. As bar glass or bra glass I wonder. More recently Kate Moss repeated the stunt. I’m sure the EU will look into the weights and measures. A more thought-sipping line on the issue was taken  by Richard Hemming MW, here.

The rationale for dumping the flute is simple enough.  It’s time champagne was treated as a proper wine.  The flute exists only to better see the fun of the bubbles. The saucer too, to watch the fizzing surface. Especially years back when ladies in drawing rooms put sugar lumps in the champagne so we’re told.  ’Sabler le champagne!’ was the cry.  The problem is that the aromas are lost (saucer) or struggle to get out (flute). It may be a bit killjoy, but the no-flute fatwah is a plea from champagne enthusiasts for a glass that really expresses the complex flavours of good champagne.

And what better champion of the new champagne glass order than Krug? The classic top house, for many the last word in champagne quality, has condemned the flute for good. They even tweet a pic of the music flute and say it’s the only one you will see Krug with from now. Eric Lebel their Chef de Cave, says ‘this outdated stemware should be left for inferior sparkling wines’.   And their CEO Maggie Henriquez said using a flute is ‘like listening to opera with earplugs’.  So there you have it.

Of course, the fun starts with what to use instead. I’m not too fussed I was going to say, but I realise I am.  The name is Zalto.  Some say its sweet wine glass is good for fizz, some say the Zalto Universal.  But the one I’m in love with right now is the one in the pic. The basic Zalto white wine glass. And I have no commercial tie to Zalto.

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