Why not to drink sparkling wines in a Champagne glass
For most of July, I’ve been drinking a lot of sparkling wine. While it would seem a natural fit with the hot weather (and it’s not just my imagination) I’ve been tasting a vast array of some of the finest bubblies produced in Spain for a new article about Cava de Paratge. Learn what a paratge/paraje is in case that’s a completely alien term as it will indeed be this to most people.
Along the way, I spent a morning talking with the owners of Recaredo whose Turó d’en Mota I just 100% adore. As I needed to taste a recent vintage of their Brut de Brut which comes from their newly-certified Serall del Vell paratge, I sat down with the head of their communications team, Santi Redondo and he poured the wine into two glasses. One was the Zalto “Universal” and the other was a standard Champagne flute. The reason behind this was to show how much the choice of glass affects the aroma profile of fine sparkling wine.
For some time, it’s been agreed upon in sommelier circles that you should always use a wider or essentially “regular” wine glass when serving Vintage Champagne or other fine sparkling wines. The flute while fun to watch the bubbles rise in, has an inherent flaw in that its design doesn’t allow the wine to fully express itself. This was readily apparent when tasting the two wines side by side.
This wine from 2007, in the Zalto glass was able to express all of its lovely tertiary aromas–the aspects of wine that arise from aging. Those nutty almond notes along with mushroom and dried fruit peel were all absent in the flute. While I would have identified the wine in the flute as a high-quality wine, I wouldn’t have identified it as a 10 year-old wine given that its profile was more focused on zesty lime notes and basic fruit components.
There are those out there with more advanced studies in wine science than myself but the reason for this added expression in the wider glass is that you’re allowing more contact and then suspension with oxygen. Volatile aroma components are able to show themselves considerably better than with the flutes as your nose can pick them up much easier.
So, why aren’t we using regular wine glasses for all sparkling wine service then? When I do tastings of sparkling wines, no matter what the age, I always use a regular glass as I want to really dig into the wine. But the thing is, for all the lovely elements that come out when not using a flute to taste fine wines, all the lesser elements in a lower-end sparkling wine also come out. See what you think of a sub-20€ Non-Vintage Champagne or sub-10€ Non-Vintage Cava if you don’t believe me. The flute does a fine job tamping down the less pretty bits you otherwise find readily in a standard wine glass.
It was interesting when tasting around at various producers as about 2/3 insisted on regular wine glasses and 1/3 insisted on flutes. And for those who brought out the flutes, by insisted, I mean that they immediately stated without any provocation that the flute was simply the best way to taste and they’d done studies to prove it. It’s important to note that everything I tasted was a Gran Reserva or greater given that Cava de Paratge requires a minimum of 36 months on the lees prior to disgorging so in my book, everything should have been tasted in regular wine glasses, but they weren’t and I just have to live with that. These are still fine wines regardless but I’m still itching to try some of them on an more even playing field.
As to what is best when you want to enjoy your bubbly, that depends a lot upon the profile you enjoy and the wines you’re drinking. If you’re kicking back bottles of ice-cold, budget-minded Prosecco during these summer days, I’d say to stick with the flute or even a simple glass as long as you’re not keeping it in your hand and thus warming it up. If you’re drinking something more fine and you want to plunge into the wine, I’d say to do as I do and pour it into a regular wine glass. I stand by this in general for all wine and maybe it doesn’t suit what you’re looking for in the wine, but at the very least, it means one less set of glasses you need to buy and well, potentially break…
Álvaro Palacios - L’Ermita 2016
Very light red cherry, raspberry, tea leaves, dried fennel, light touch of anise, bay leaf, dried flowers, touch of fig compote, truffle. Exceptionally light and delicate on the palate, very very fine red fruits, integrated tannins, plush with a slightly buttery, velvety aspect, very long finish.
85% Grenache 14% Carignan 1% "Others" · 15% · 1160EUR
Ancestral Wine Cellar - Khikhvi 2014
First harvest of Khikhvi. Light apricot notes, peach skin, lemon peel. Citric in the mouth, fresh, lively acidity, vibrant. Very holistic, full and deliciously good.
100% Khikhvi · 12% · 30GEL
Álvaro Palacios - Les Aubaguetes 2016
Linear plum and dark cherry notes, powdery cocoa, orange peel and blossom, raspberry at the base along with minor vanilla and dark spice touches. Delicate on the palate, light touches of dark fruit, good wealth of tannins yet held in check, medium plus acidity, very long finish. Needs much more time in the bottle.
77% Grenache 21% Carignan 1% Grenache Blanc 1% Macabeu · 14.5% · 455EUR
Petriaant Marani - Khikhvi 2015
Bruised red apple, touch of lemon peel, limestone minerality, and some white pepper notes at the back of it. High acidity and full in the mouth. Luscious, involving, elegant wine.
100% Khikhvi · 14% · 25GEL
Aquila del Torre - Primaluce 2015
Bruised yellow apple, bit of fig compote, chalky mineral notes, and hazelnut. Light oxidized touches that work to embellish the wine. Rich palate that carries lovely texture with the age of the wine.
100% Sauvignon Blanc · 13.5%
Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Blanc 2016
Lemon and white peach, strong kick of salinity, and toasted notes. Very fleshy and full on the palate, peach notes more prominent as well as Meyer lemon, medium plus acidity and a lengthy finish.
100% Grenache Gris · 14.5% · 20EUR
AA Badenhorst - Secateurs Red Blend 2012
Forest bramble with ripe red fruit, touches of cherry, ripe red plum, tiny bit of prune, cumin, anise, black licorice, wet cement mineral note, underlying fig jam. Crisp medium plus acidity, medium tannins, medium plus length, medium alcohol, overall medium plus body that’s ripe and lively but super fresh and balanced at the same time. Bit of rugged wildness to it but doesn’t get out of hand. Easy to drink but with just enough underlying complexity so that it stays interesting.
56% Syrah 27% Cinsaut 6% Grenache 4% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% "Others" · 13.5% · 12EUR
Domaine Treloar - Motus 2015
Dark ruby, minor rim. Big, mighty bouquet of red cherry and other brambly forest fruit, vanilla, almond blossom, orange peel, and cocoa. Rich and full on the palate with a wealth of tannins still integrating, leading into a crunchy, lingering finish.
80% Mourvèdre 10% Syrah 10% Grenache · 14% · 14EUR
Terroir Sense Fronteres - Guix Vermell 2017
Crisp red cherry fruit, touch of spice, flecks of pepper, baking spice, compacted, wet earth. Delicate on the palate, stays fresh, surprising high wealth of tannins, long finish.
100% Grenache · 13% · 250EUR
Tchotiashvili - Khikhvi 2014
Apricot, yellow peach, orange peel, and a touch of honey. Quite complex aromatically. Orchard fruit much more prevalent in the mouth with young apricot notes. Rich and elegant, touch of astringency in the finish.
100% Khikhvi · 13.1% · 28GEL