December 30, 2010

History of: Champagne Glasses

I thought it was he perfect time to take a little visual history of Champagne glasses, (something I am currently wanting to add to my collection) maybe you will think twice about the flute you grab for your New Years toast.

I chose to begin this history of Champagne glasses with the most whimsical story I could find. There are many other accounts for the first Champagne glass, but here is mine.
Marie Antoinette was an icon of her day, that image remains strong to this day. Nothing was too extravagant, she spent her days being fitted for the newest fashions, often creating her own. She threw parties famous for the exorbitant food, drink, and company. Because of her love of beauty, drink, and frivolity, she made a wax mold of her breast, and created the first champagne coupe glass as a gift for the king.
As I said this is the way I like to pretend it happened... it was actually created in England almost a century before Marie.
Here is an example of what Marie's creation may have looked like.
The Coupe shape was popular from the 1930's through the 1960's for those fabulous champagne towers with the bubbly cascading down from the top glass. This was popular in the speakeasies during the prohibition.

Sadly the coupe shape lost the champagne's bubbles too quickly, and so the flute shape that we commonly use today was born. The exact date is unknown, but there is speculation that is was designed in the early 19th century. The tall narrow glass has less surface area, thus reducing the loss of CO2.

But for the true oneophile the tulip shape glass is more desirable because it is wider at the midpoint than at the top, enhancing the smell, thus enhancing the champagne experience.

This 19th century "Tsar" pattern was created for exclusive use by the royal Russian family. They are a foot tall with a 4inch coupe.

Here is an example of a Victorian era coupe these are more on the simple side, however some had more etching details. The Edwardian era coupe (shown below) has a lot of etching and engraving, always very detailed and delicate. You can easily recognize the change to the art deco styles that occurred later, because the delicate floral patterns transform into more geometric floral patterns, then into pure shapes.

The 1950's and 60's kept the etching of the earlier styles but focused on a simple icon, such as the starburst shown below.

Through the 1990's there was a lot of reinventing going on, and the glasses below a the prime example of what the artists were trying to achieve. You can hold the outer glass, and not warm the contents that revel the classic flute style we mostly use today.

Alissia Melka-Teichroew, 2004 @ MoMA Store

Champagne began as a drink reserved for kings and coronations, but now, you can find a bottle in any price range. It is still used for celebrations, of just your average everyday celebrations (whoohoo, I made it, its friday, cheers to the weekend. Those kind of celebrations.)

Crystal is always a better choice than glass for your champagne glasses because the crystal has imperfections that give the CO2 a place to cling to before popping at the top. The imperfections also help produce more bubbles. Im usually not a big fan of crystal, but for Champagne I'll make an exception.

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