To Coupe or not to Coupe…

14th March 2017

Champagne glass - Coupe

In the early years, Champagne wine was not sparkling. Any glass would suffice for the murky, yet flavorful wine served to nobility, soldiers and aristocrats. The clergy used a large Bordeaux-style glass, aristocrats used smaller, carved, and ornate glasses and soldiers used mugs. Different class, different glass. In the l700’s, after Dom Pérignon and Dr Christopher Merret, the wines became sparkling, and the interest in preserving the bubbles after the wine was poured began.

As there was no refrigeration, ‘bowls’ of Champagne were set on ice to keep it cold. When ordered, you received your Champagne to sip and then the bowl was returned.

The Champagne coupe or Champagne saucer was designed in England in 1663. This glass was the first glass specifically designed for drinking Champagne. The glass has a short stem and a wide short bowl. The glasses were designed for stacking at buffets and banquets and were used primarily for that purpose. There are many Champagne legends surrounding the Champagne coupe. Most famous is the one about the narcissistic French Queen Marie Antoinette, wife of King Louis XVI, 1755-93, who had ceramic glasses cast from her breasts so courtiers could drink to her health. She may have made those glasses, they would measure 32A, but she did not invent the coupe. A similar story surrounds Madame du Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV, who crafted coupes after her breasts so her lover could drink from them. Madame du Barry, another mistress of Louis XV, did the same thing.

Despite its glamour, the glass does not keep the carbonation and tends to warm quickly.

The flute à Champagne, has a long narrow stem and a tall, narrow bowl. The shape of the bowl can be straight-sided or curve out, much like a wine glass. This glass has the best opportunity to preserve and view the bubbles as they dance up to the rim. The aromas are concentrated at the narrow rim. The flute, rather than the coupe is a great improvement for connoisseurs. But, they can be easy to break, “as fragile as the virtue of a showgirl” said a 19th century author.

Oenophiles prefer a type of white wine glass with a tulip shape to capture more of the aromas while still maintaining some effervescent. This shape is known as the ‘bowed flute’ and it resembles the official INAO tasting glass.

Regardless of the glass, Champagne is more than a drink; it brings joy and celebration.

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