Enjoying bubbly? Lose the flute.

The cork comes out with a noisy pop! Fizzy wine pours frothing into a tall, narrow glass called a “flute.”

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Was your New Year’s Eve like this? Stop! Reboot! Before 2016 gets any older, let’s make a quick resolution: No more wasting the joy of quality sparkling wines in a traditional glass that is profoundly unsuited to show off their fine aromas.

In a recent article in the British wine magazine Decanter, “Farewell to Champagne flutes in 2016,” Master of Wine Anne Krebiehl declared that she hasn’t sipped bubbly from an old-school flute in many years.

“Like so many in the business I have been drinking my Champagne and sparkling wines from white wine glasses,” Krebiehl wrote. “This way I can gorge on the lovely aroma and taste, and fully appreciate what makes those bubbles such a joy to drink.”

I was inclined to agree. Like a lot of other wine geeks of a certain age, I flirted shamelessly with Les Impitoyables, Riedels and other fancy, pricey glasses that argued for a distinctive shape to best highlight the subtle aromas and flavors of every varietal wine grape, not to mention Scotch, Cognac and possibly cider or even Coca-Cola.

In recent years, though, this glass-for-every-wine approach is looking increasingly faddish and more than a little “oh, so ’90s.” Lately I’ve been falling back to a single standard: A simple, stylish “tulip” glass, a stemmed vessel that takes its name from the shape of the bowl.

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Enjoying bubbly? Lose the flute.

A good wine glass needs to be large enough to swirl and sniff, with ample head space so the wine’s aromas can fill the bowl for our enjoyment. But the more wine I taste, the more I realize that one size really does fit all – or, maybe, all right, one size fits all whites and a slightly larger size fits all reds – as long as the glasses meet the criteria of sufficient size and tulip shape.

So my random mixed set of Riedels, sad to say, has gathered dust in our china cabinet for quite some time now.

When it comes to bubbly, though, I casually continued to use flutes because, well, that’s what we do. Until I saw the Decanter article. Frankly, I dismissed the article at first, because after its persuasive start, it took a turn into what appeared to be an advertorial for Riedel and a couple of other high-end European producers who make pricey just-for-Champagne glasses.

Nuh uh. That’s what I’m trying to get away from. What’s more, the glasses pictured didn’t look all that different from a standard white-wine tulip. Like, hey, this old dusty Riedel Chardonnay glass that I just happened to have right here.

Flute, not-flute

Flute, not-flute

Why believe what I read? Let’s try a test! I took the Riedel Chardonnay glass and a generic flute and poured a splash of a decent French bubbly, Gérard Bertrand 2012 “Cuvee Thomas Jefferson” Cremant de Limoux Brut, into each.

The flute performed its intended purpose: It’s fun to watch the sparkling wine’s lastring stream of pinpoint bubbles go swirling up the length of the tall glass to the top.

But for most of us, the primary sensory benefits of wine don’t come from looking at the stuff. Once you put your nose in the glass, the difference is obvious. The tulip-shaped glass fills with the delicate scents of green figs, dates and distant pears that highlight the Cremant de Limoux.

The flute? Meh. The tall, pipelike glass shape with its narrow aperture, just wide enough to stick your nose in, doesn’t do much to collect the aromas, showing only distant, undifferentiated white fruit. The flavor didn’t suffer so badly, but given that 90 percent of our perception of a wine comes through the nose, the battle was already lost.

(To complete the experiment, we tried a little more bubbly in an inexpensive white-wine glass from Target, which had plenty of room but lacked the turned-in upper curve of a true tulip. It was better than the flute, not as good as the true tulip glass.)

So, does anybody want to buy a half-dozen flutes, cheap?

We’d love to have you join in conversation on this topic. Should we lose the flute? You’re invited to check in at our WineLovers Discussion Group forum or our WineLovers Facebook page to tell us what you do.

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Today’s Tasting Report

Gérard Bertrand 2012 “Cuvee Thomas Jefferson” Cremant de Limoux Brut ($17.99)

Gérard Bertrand

This sparkling blend of Chardonnay (70%), Chenin Blanc (15%), Mauzac (10%) and Pinot Noir (5%) shows a clear, pale straw color in the glass. A frothy white mousse bubbles up but falls back fast; but a steady stream of pinpoint bubbles lasts and lasts. Delicate, pleasant white fruit on the nose: Green figs, maybe, and a hint of dates, with subtle pears in the background. Carbonation and crisp acidity start the flavor with a palate-cleansing effect, then simple white fruit follows the nose, with just a hint of fresh green herbs that lingers into a long, clean finish. U.S. importer: Wine West LLC, Sausalito, Calif. (Jan. 7, 2016)

FOOD MATCH: Good dry sparkling wines go with just about anything. I might not suggest it first with a juicy rare steak, but it would work even there. It was excellent with the flavors of a garlicky spinach and walnut pesto with goat cheese over farfalle pasta.

WHEN TO DRINK: I wouldn’t recommend cellaring this simple French sparkler, but you don’t have to rush to drink it up. This 2012 model is doing just fine.

VALUE: My local price is within reach of the $16 average U.S. retail price shown onWine-Searcher.com. This wine is competitive with many basic non-vintage Champagnes that start around $50 or so, so I’d call it an excellent value at any point below $20 or so.

This fact sheet (PDF) offers good information on Gérard Bertrand “Cuvee Thomas Jefferson” Cremant de Limoux Brut.

Check prices and find vendors for Gérard Bertrand “Cuvee Thomas Jefferson” Cremant de Limoux Brut on Wine-Searcher.com.

Learn more about Cremant de Limoux and browse dozens of producers and merchants on Wine-Searcher.com.


Decent, affordable, all-purpose wine glass

If today’s discussion prompts you to go wine-glass hunting, you probably won’t go wrong if you head for the nearest Target or Costco and look for something affordable in the “tulip” shape.

Spiegelau Vino Grande Chardonnay Glasses

Spiegelau Vino Grande Chardonnay Glasses

Here’s one good-looking option available from Amazon.com: The Spiegelau Vino Grande Chardonnay Glasses are currently $49.99 for a set of six, about 8 bucks per glass, a whopping 44% saving from the $89.88 list price. Although they’re marketed for Chardonnay, they’ll work fine with bubbly and would make a decent default glass for all the wines you enjoy.


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