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Drink Champagne Daily, But Toss the Flute

The just-out July Esquire has a good article, pointing out that, in general, we don’t drink enough Champagne. It's titled, "The King of Wines: The problem with champagne is that we celebrate it, but we don’t drink it." Yes, we pop it on New Year’s, at weddings and birthdays, and spray each other with it when we win major championships. But the only thing we don’t do is treat it as a wine.

It’s a good message, but somewhat moot here in SF, where I see people swilling bubbly on a Tuesday like it was going out of style. Seriously, we love our Champers here, as anyone can see just walking by down the street. Case in point, I ambled past Zuni the other day and saw about 6 people drinking Champagne with oysters at the bar. It was 6 PM.

One thing I will say, though, is that most people don’t get the most out of their bubbly because they’re drinking it out of the wrong glasses. Richard Geoffroy, head winemaker for Dom Perignon was recently in town to promote new vintages, and in passing he mentioned that his company no longer serves Champagne in flutes. I clinked glasses with him for that, as using the right Champagne stemware has been one of my causes for some time. Maximillian Riedel, of the famous glassware company has also come out to me as anti-flute. And I try to make this point to my wife, who is a Champagne maven and a sommelier, but still stubbornly hangs onto the Champagne flute as her glass of choice.

Why flout the flute? Well, even though we don't always see it as such, Champagne is a serious wine, requiring all, if not more, winemaking craftsmanship and skill than any other wine.  It deserves a full, real wine glass with both shape and dimension. Such a vessel is much more flattering to the aromatics, allowing you both smell the wine better (which is 90% of tasting it) and to take a much more meaningful sip. I would contest that even the old-fashioned coupe is better than a flute. That may sound contrarian, since the flute has almost completely replaced the coupe. But the main argument for the flute over the coupe was that the former presents the wine much more flatteringly and that it holds on the carbonation longer. Well, that may be true. But who drinks Champagne so slowly that it risks going flat? And if you’re standing around admiring it then you’re not really drinking it, which was the original point of Esquire’s article.

The real problems with the coupe is that you end up holding the glass by the bowl, warming it and getting your greasy prints all over it. It also doesn't focus the aromas at all. So, hands down, the best glass for Champagne is just your basic, smallish white wine glass--the perfect intermediary between the flawed flute and the controversial coupe. It doesn't have to be expensive. Fill the glass halfway with a brilliant golden Champagne, hold the glass always by the stem, and enjoy your beautiful Tuesday evening.