Engraved flutes have been popular champagne drinking vessels for centuries. Champagne first came to Britain from France in 1670, and from that moment, it became clear that a beverage with such finesse and delicacy would need a special drinking vessel to showcase it at its best.
A history of champagne glassware
Of course, early champagne glasses were not flutes as we would recognise them: making a glass that was delicate enough to drink from with style would only become possible once glassblowers had mastered the art of using high temperatures to manipulate glass into finer shapes.
Early champagne drinkers – usually members of the nobility and aristocracy – used glasses similar to those adopted for other carbonated drinks, like beer or cider, for their beverages. Thin glasses with a long stem were only developed in the early 18th Century and were favoured over other glasses because the stem meant that the liquid would not lose its coolness in warm hands. Champagne coupes were originally preferred for their glamourous style, but once aficionados started paying attention to the taste and texture of champagne, it soon became all about the engraved flutes!
The science of bubbles
Classic champagne coupes have a timeless quality to them, but their large surface area means that the bubbles, which are such an integral part of champagne, quickly disappear. The introduction of the champagne flute came about as a response to the problem of keeping the bubbles where they are supposed to be – in the drink.
Champagne flutes are now an iconic part of the champagne drinking aesthetic. With their tall, thin sides and engraved base, they allow delicate streams of bubbles to trickle to the surface without dissipating too quickly. Engravings on the inside of the glass affect the trajectory of the bubbles in a stylish fashion, whilst the exterior of engraved flutes add a touch of decadence and flair to any champagne-drinking experience.
A feast of flavours
Of course, like everything, champagne changes through the ages. Where it once was a very sugary drink, now it is far more complex in palate. Champagne is also fizzier now than it used to be, so it can withstand a larger drinking vessel. It is not unknown for some sommeliers to recommend drinking premium champagnes in a white wine glass so that you can really get the flavours to swirl about and taste the champagne at its fullest.
A more elegant compromise is the champagne tulip. Boasting similar dimensions to the traditional flute (it holds 125mls of champagne), this glass with tapered base, a wide bowl and a gentle curve over the aperture maintains the bubbles, but the wide sides mean that the aromas can really breathe, which gives you the best of both worlds.
Of course, for style and panache, nothing beats the classic flute, but next time you come face-to-face with a Krug or a Dom Perignon Vintage bottle, pay close attention to the receptacle you are drinking from. You could find it makes all the difference!