There is wine, and then there is champagne. There is a permanent eye patch between you and the medieval system, even when the champagne is secured by screw tops, or synthetic corks, or by a twisted wire cage affixed over a bulging cork. Increasingly, wine has playful names with graphic labels like ‘Fat Bastard’ or ‘You Are So Fine’, or is dominated by a few names tongue-biting to pronounce, such as Moët, Veuve, Ruinart, Prévost, or the brands adorned with family crests and calligraphy. Serving wine depending on age, composition, or alcoholic content is best and champagne is always served in flutes. Or is it?
The marketer or sommelier suggests that we drink the sparkling fluids of champagne from the white wine glasses of iconic, slender-stemmed glass stands, like a wine. A champenoise once recommended the shift to a wine glass, one called a wine glass and the other called a flute instead. The famous podcast ‘I’ll Drink to That’ depicts the wants of the wines to be taken seriously, as this did not happen as much in many developed countries.
Champagne is still served in the wide, flat glasses that have taken up a permanent residence in a craft cocktail scene. The wide-mouthed glass allows the effervescence to disappear along with the aroma especially describing the perlage. The Italian or French glasses are often accessorised with a small whisk or a forked stirrer used to speed the bubble dissipation.
Of the many debunked stories of champagne, one very famous legend of Marie-Antoinette’s breast may be the most pervasively modelled. Being the beverage of the French kings and those who wanted to emulate, it was exported with advertisements running errands with the names of European nobility, like Champagne Charlie, George Leybourne, seen in black-tie in a music hall performing simply to be seen on the product.
Toast a tradition
With the change in character, the styles on how we should drink it should change too. In America, it has long been a symbol and not a beverage, with the athletes celebrating under a rush of foam, the wedding families raising the toasts, and many such during the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Champagne is a big deal. Ordering champagne before dinner on no special occasion shows one is European.
Diverse wine culture
The cultural saturation of champagne in Europe stays favourable as the attitude there is: ‘Why would one do things differently?’ and the answer comes: ‘You’ll never get a Belgian to change the glass they use.’ Ironically the champagne will still really get the chance to shine, thus helping the consumers to treat it more like real wine.
Champagne, an aesthetic and cultural object, in a fictional wine glass forms a trump function. Some glassware may form Swarovski crystal for weddings or customised stemless etched flutes to hand out as favours or trinket gifts with corkscrewed, squared, hand-painted, or inverted. The flute attitude is designed to preserve and showcase the festive moments, rather than peeping down and replacing it as a glass of choice.
Jashan Jot Kaur is a researcher at Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.