Celebrating the New Year with the latest art of champagne - Food + Drink - Life and Style - The Independent

Celebrating the New Year with the latest art of champagne

As popping corks announce the New Year, champagne lovers can expect some radical new trends in the art of savouring a tipple that for centuries has been associated with celebration.

The true connoisseur should ditch the traditional long-stemmed flutes and the saucer-shaped coupes and instead start drinking the sparkling white wine from elongated, tulip-shaped glasses, say the experts.

And those seeking to be truly avant-garde should start serving the finest bubbly from carafes.

Champagne has been associated with luxury and festivities since the time when France crowned its kings in Reims, in the heart of the Champagne region of northeastern France.

By the 19th century, it had become an affordable indulgence and grown enormously popular. Production shot from 300,000 bottles in 1800 to 20 million bottles in 1850, and kept growing. In 2008, 405 million bottles were produced.

But recent trends set in motion by champagne producers hope to remind consumers that champagne is not just a celebratory drink but can also be a very fine wine.

To appreciate its subtleties, proper serving vessels are necessary, a point driven home at the recent Grand Tasting in Paris, the annual fine-wine fair hosted by critics Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve.

"We hate the bloody champagne coupe, because we know there is no nose, no aromas, and that's half the pleasure. We definitely do not recommend it for champagne," said Philippe Guillon of Riedel, whose glasses were being used at the Grand Tasting.

While they still sell flutes, Guillon sees a move towards a shape reminiscent of a regular wine glass or even the rounder pinot noir glass.

"The glass will affect how the bubbles enter your mouth," he said.

"If it's too narrow, the bubbles can be overwhelming. The diameter will play a key role in the perception of the tannins, acidity and bitterness. And the shape will definitely affect the aromas."

Andreas Larsson, who was voted 2007 Best Sommelier of the World, agreed.

"I think the optimal glass for champagne is a version of the flute with a slightly wider body and narrow opening to enhance flavour and aroma. There's still a lot of champagne being served in inferior glasses."

To understand the drive to banish the flute and the coupe, experts point to the complexity of champagne.

"At the heart of champagne is the art of blending," explained Mathieu Kauffmann, Chef de Cave at Bollinger, before a packed audience at the Grand Tasting.

Kauffmann uses grapes from 40 classified vineyards and 200 different wines. A non-vintage champagne is a blend of at least five vintages taken from the cellars' vast reserves.

"Given the climate, we cannot assure the house style each year without reserves," he said, adding that reserve wines, stored in magnums, are bottled separately both by vineyard and grape variety to enable precision blending.

"My objective is to create a complex, aromatic, and balanced vinous champagne that will go with an entire dinner and age well."

Believing that both the flute and the coupe fall flat in the face of such intricacy, the big-name champagne producers Moet et Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Piper Heidsieck and Bollinger have created custom glasses.

"We tested 30 different glasses," said Kauffmann. "We tried it with each cuvee and wanted a glass that would also adapt to a great vintage. Our glass is a cross between a flute and a classic wine glass."

New glasses should be a relatively easy sell, but another new trend in the art of champagne drinking has already sparked controversy.

"The debate is more about decanting, to put it in a carafe or not," said Kauffmann. "I must admit, I was sceptical at first but we did some very interesting experiments."

Philippe Jamesse, Head Sommelier at Les Crayeres, a three-star Michelin restaurant in Reims, comes down firmly against carafing champagne. He is unwilling to sacrifice bubbles for aromas.

"Effervescence is an important aspect of champagne. The chefs de cave take such care and the quality of a champagne is directly related to the quality of the bubbles," he said.

He offered a third solution: "I designed two glasses that allow me to avoid carafing the champagne. Both versions widen at the middle and narrow at the top."

Others feel the carafe offers real possibilities.

"First, it will open up better. It is a wine, we should not forget," said Guillon.

"And second, if I were going to have a champagne dinner, putting it in a decanter will remove part of the effervescence, which will make it easier to digest."

Larsson took a more nuanced approach.

"Consider a gentle decanting beneficial when you enjoy a young, high-quality champagne which is still in a closed phase, just like you would decant a young Burgundy.

"However, for older ones, there's a risk of overly-oxidizing the champagne and losing too much of the bubbles," he said.

At least one champagne house has positioned itself with the trendsetters. This holiday season, Charles Heidsieck proposes a hand-blown, lyre-shaped decanter for their prestige cuvee, the 1995 vintage Blanc de Millenaires.

This, it believes, will let the wine "express itself fully and reveal its extraordinary aromatic complexity."

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week