Champagne from a coupe or flute? Or how about a handy mug?
May 26, 2009 10:12 AM   Subscribe

When did the champagne flute become the norm over the champagne coupe?

After watching a bunch of old MGM movies, I noticed the actors were drinking champagne out of coupes as opposed to flutes. When did flutes become de rigeur?

Searching old AskMes, I found this comment by chrismear: As an aside, the reason for the traditional coupe was that it was used to serve the sweeter, almost dessert champagne that they drank back then. As everyone says, it's not right for the dry style of champagne we have today.

Was the switch to the flute due to dry champagne production? Were there always dry and dessert types of champagne and dry became more trendy at some point between the early 1900s and now? Or did dry bust on the scene in 19xx and it became popular?

I would like to know the historical context, if there is any, as well as the, uh, wine science reason.

(I have a beginner level knowledge of wine and glassware.)
posted by spec80 to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I know that at my family's house, the change took place some time in the mid seventies. My father was into wine and all the pomp and circumstance surrounding it, so retiring the old champagne glasses that we'd had forever and replacing them with flutes was done with a whole lot of drama. I was a bit too young to drink or care much; I just remember my father declaiming about it - I think it was probably between 1976 and 1979.

Honestly I prefer the coupes (huh. I always just called them saucers.) myself. Champagne flutes are hard to drink out of and a royal, but royal, pain to wash.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:20 AM on May 26, 2009

spec, I can only speak to the functional advantage of the flute, which allows for the bubbles to stay more vibrant for longer. Perhaps some research into George Riedel's introduction of oenophile friendly stemware might shed some light.

With that being said, I tend to vary between drinking out of a flute and out of a Chardonnay style glass. The flute indeed does retain the effervescence. The chard glass allows for the wine to develop a bit more, as I tend to enjoy secondary characteristics of great champagnes more than simple tart acidity.
posted by stratastar at 10:31 AM on May 26, 2009

I saw the change over in the late 80's.

I prefer flutes for Kir Royale and for champagne with a small spoon of cranberry sorbet. The coupe is inelegant for both drinks.

Through lore, I was under the belief that flutes with their smaller surface exposure were best for maintaining effervescence, the thing that makes champagne special.
posted by plinth at 10:32 AM on May 26, 2009

I always prefer flutes due to their stability. I find coupes prone to sloshing when milling about at a cocktail party.
posted by mikesch at 10:50 AM on May 26, 2009

There's a bunch of relevant info and neat pictures here, in amongst the Veuve Clicquot marketing bumf.
posted by zamboni at 10:52 AM on May 26, 2009

A pertinent article in last week's Globe and Mail
posted by Neiltupper at 11:06 AM on May 26, 2009

Off the actual topic, I was told the perfect breast fit into a champagne "glass."

People have told me that champagne glasses are flutes only, and I am ignorant because I don't know that.
posted by chocolatetiara at 11:36 AM on May 26, 2009

chocolatetiara: That was probably an offshoot of the many (false) legends regarding the champagne coupe.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:53 AM on May 26, 2009

Chocolatetiara: The story that the champagne coupe was modeled after a woman's breast is a very old one indeed. Most commonly it's Madam Du Pompadour who provided the shape, but it's been attributed to a number of famous/notable women.

Even more off-topic, Madam Clicquo (of Veuve Clicquo) is credited with inventing the first "modern" champagne process. Early champagnes had very little fizz and were quite sweet, to wit -

"Dom PĂ©rignon was originally charged by his superiors at the Abbey of Hautvillers to get rid of the bubbles since the pressure in the bottles caused many of them to burst in the cellar. As sparkling wine production increased in the early 1700s, cellar workers would have to wear heavy iron mask that resembled a baseball catcher's mask to prevent injury from spontaneously bursting bottles. "

The ridding process of the house of Veuve Clicquo (repeatedly turning the bottles and placing them on an inclined rack) greatly reduced breakage and increased fizziness.
posted by The Whelk at 11:58 AM on May 26, 2009

Flutes and Coupes are for different circumstances, Coups are for less formal parties, flutes are more formal, and typically when champagne is served at the table.
posted by mattoxic at 4:38 PM on May 26, 2009

To agree with stratastar, from a scientific standpoint, different glass shapes can accentuate a wine in different ways. With Champagne, the bottom line for flutes is to keep the effervescence (or bubbles) as long as possible. With a narrow opening (and sometimes a laser cut on the middle of the bottom of the glass) a sparkling wine can have bubbles that simply last longer (not at my house, hey!) than a larger saucer type glass.

This aside, I also agree with stratastar that a White or Red Burgundy glass (large bowl, white would be similar size with let focus on the nose) can make a Champagne's nuances really shine.

Bottom line is the best way I would test this out would be to buy a couple bottles and do some "research".
posted by priested at 4:57 PM on May 26, 2009

One of my professors claimed that Loius XIV was the one who invented the flute.
posted by brujita at 8:56 PM on May 26, 2009

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