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Champagne study: flute, coupe glass undesired

When it comes to pouring champagne, long, skinny flutes and short, wide coupes have existed side by side for generations. But neither is really the ideal for enjoying a glass of top-shelf bubbly, new research shows.

While beers and wines generally have glasses designed to highlight their taste characteristics, when it comes to champagne the flute and coupe have happily co-existed. Glassmakers, however, may have to rethink their stemware recommendations after reading research published Wednesday in the online journal PLoS ONE.

Scientists from the University of Reims in France found that glass shape influences an invisible cloud of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other volatile organic compounds that forms above champagne and impacts the drinking experience.

"The main consequence of dissolved CO2 is the creation of bubbles, which is of course a good thing for champagne, but it can be a problem if the cloud of gaseous CO2 escaping above the fluid it is too concentrated," Gerard Liger-Belair, the study's lead author and a professor at the University of Reims, told Deutsche Welle.

Irritating narrow flutes

Liger-Belair and his team a micro-gas chromatography technique and a thermal conductivity detector to sample the chemicals in the space above the glass for the first 15 minutes after the champagne was poured into each type of glass.

Red Bull driver Mark Webber of Australia pours champagne on teammate Sebastian Vettel, of Germany, during the podium ceremony after a Formula 1 race

It's probably not the CO2 that's irritating Sebastian Vettel (left)

In the time directly after pouring, concentrations of gaseous CO2 found close to the edge of the flute were approximately between two and three times higher than those reached above the coupe. The higher concentrations of gaseous CO2 above the flute make the smell of champagne, especially the first nose, more irritating when served in a flute, the researchers found.

The effects of carbon dioxide, which results from the amount of sugar added to promote fermentation, can mainly be regulated in two ways, Liger-Belair said. Either by the winemakers changing how much sugar they sugar mix with their wine or by the shape of the glass the champagne is served in.

Happy medium

Hands holding glasses of sparkling wine together for a toast

The perfect glass preserves champagne's aroma qualities while minimizing CO2 concentration

Glass-shape, and especially the way the glass opens at the top, is thought to play an important role in production and motion of CO2 bubbles as well as in the transportation of aromatic compounds that can affect the taste of the drink by suppressing sweetness receptors. But without the effervescence created by carbon dioxide, champagne and sparkling wines would be flat and unrecognizable.

Despite the centuries they have been used, according to Liger-Belair, neither the standard flute nor the wider coupe provide an ideal drinking experience.

"The flute concentrates aromas, of course, but it also concentrates CO2 and that's a problem since it can irritate the nose which is not good at all," Liger-Belair said. "The problem with the coupe is that it is too wide. The CO2 is diluted, so that not a problem, but the aromas are also diluted."

Instead, he recommended champagne drinkers use a glass shaped somewhere between the flute and coupe - but that happy medium seems to be elusive for the time being.

Author: Sean Sinico
Editor: Cyrus Farivar

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