Thank you Darla Hoffmann and inderpal singh for contributing to last week's topic on the Rhone Rangers!
This week: Glass
Describe the type of bottle and glass used for sparkling wines, using the history of Champagne and its production where appropriate.
It became evident that French glass was way to delicate to withhold a beverage with such effervescence as many bottles were destroyed long ago. If one bottle burst it could take out the whole cellar. I believe it was Dom Perignon that began using stronger glass bottles developed by the English in the early 1700's. Soon after there was an ordinance passed to determine what size and shape of bottle would carry the weight of the Champagne and what size and shape of cork should be used. Thereafter, the glass used for Champagne and Sparkling bottles are much heavier, wider, thicker, and even more of a round shape, than those of still wine to withstand the pressure. Champagne and Sparking also have a punt or dip at the bottom of the bottle for added strength which also aids in pouring and riddling.
The English were instrumental in helping define the proper bottle and glass used for the first sparkling wines, and specifically for Champagne. In the 1600s France was utilizing thin, wood-fired glass bottles which were incapable of handling the pressure of the newly discovered Champagne Method wines. They were also commonly sealing bottles with wood wrapped in hemp, which would evidently fail to preserve any carbon dioxide. The English had been using corks stoppers since the mid-sixteenth century, along with having significantly stronger bottles that were blown using coal fire. The heavier glass along with the use of cork finally reached Champagne in 1700, allowing its production to become much more intentional and widespread across the region. And when the mayor of Reims petitioned (and won!) to permit wines to be transported in bottle rather than cask, they certainly had to utilize these stronger, more durable coal-fired bottles under cork to allow for the transportation of their newly discovered, and highly praised wines to other markets.
The English was at that time concerned about the ever diminishing supply of trees in the country, as its natural forests were being cut down at a alarming rate to supply fuel for its nascent industries. By the early 1610s,Sir Edward Zouche was granted patent for his research and success in using coal as the main fuel for a furnace at Winchester. In fact , by late1620s, The Engliah Parliament banned the use of wood in furnaces.Around the same period, Sir Robert Mansell bought out the patent of Zouche and start his own furnace in Newcastle, which prove to be highly successful and became the model of other industrialists in glass and bottle manufacturing.
Additionally, champagne is a region based around marketing and differentiating yourself from your neighbor. That being said, you see a great degree of bottle shape variation in the region. Billecart Salmon, Krug, and a few others have very particular shapes to the bottles that are part of the brand and the image.
Considering the service of Champagne and style of glass, there is a tradition of utilizing the coupe and the flute. The coupe has a colorful history and related lore, but, in practicality is splashy and fails to retain either the aroma or the bead of Champagne. The flute is beautiful and incredibly well suited toward showcasing bubbles, but, does little to enhance the aroma or flavor of the wine. Recent movement has been made toward utilizing Burgundy glasses instead, to capture the essence of the wine and reflect the grape character, rather than focus upon the perlage.
I'll take Champagne from any glass, thank you. But, highly prefer a Burgundy glass or an AP glass to fully enjoy all aspects of the wine.