Wine pros will insist it helps to have the right glass – a large, wide bowl, for example, to amplify the aromas in a delicate red, a smaller tulip shape for fragrant sauvignon blanc. I can think of a case where it can help to have the wrong glass: champagne. Ever try serving it out of a regular wine stem rather than a narrow flute?
You might want to try, for either of two reasons. (I'm saving my favourite for second.) First, it's not really the wrong glass at all, just unconventional.
The flute's big advantage pertains to bubbles. They remain in solution longer, so the wine loses effervescence less quickly. There's a trade-off, though. You don't get the focused aroma of a typical still-wineglass, which is much wider in the middle than at the rim. In a nerdy departure from the norm, some sommeliers and champagne houses have begun to promote the standard still-wine shape for bubbly.
Now to the second reason: It's a way to dress down the sparkling-wine experience and treat bubbly the way it ought to be treated – as a wine, not merely as a fancy or dainty toast. I often drink sparkling wine out of regular wineglasses, even those fashionable stemless tumblers. Unlike a slender flute, which is no friend of wobbly tables, they feel more solid. It doesn't matter whether the glass is built for white or red. Sparkling wine always tastes better to me when it's not part of a celebration.
Like some of you, I drink it often, at least the affordable stuff – as an aperitif, with meals, even occasionally with popcorn in front of the flat screen.
(Oops, I don't yet have one of those; I meant obsolete cathode-ray clunker.) Hauling out the flutes each time seems an unnecessary step, like putting on a tie to walk to the corner store.
The best part? If you start dinner with a sparkling wine and move on to still, you can stick with the same vessel.
Did I mention I also don't own a dishwasher?
Moët & Chandon Brut Grand Vintage Champagne 2002 (France)
SCORE: 92 PRICE: $81.95
The texture in this super-premium, cellar-worthy offering is almost powdery, backed up by a strong mineral flavour. Lemon zest and a fragrant, floral quality carry through to the long, bracing finish.
Godmé Père et Fils Brut Reserve Champagne (France)
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $51.95
This is one of those trendy so-called grower champagnes, produced by the house that owns the vineyards, as distinct from most, where the fruit is sourced and crushed by a large company. The effervescence is relatively soft, with an oily, round texture and notes of binned apple, honey and lemon.
Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne (France)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $53.95
Baked apple, citrus and brioche notes mingle nicely with a strong mineral character in this well-rounded bubbly. The price is $64.99 in British Columbia.
Domaine de Vaugondy Brut Vouvray (France)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $18.95
Made from high-acid chenin blanc rather than pinot noir and chardonnay, the main grapes of champagne, this dry sparkling wine serves up a core of orchard fruit, notably apple and poached pear, but the treat is in the slate-like essence and electric zing. Beautifully made.
13th Street Cuvée 13 Brut Rosé (Ontario)
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $24.95
The colour is feminine rosepetal and the palate is soft, not as bone-dry as most bruts. Effervescence is nicely tame, unlike most Niagara bubblies, which makes it especially suitable for food. I like the concentrated strawberry core.
Asolo Superiore Extra Dry Prosecco 2010 (Italy)
SCORE: 89 PRICE: $16.95
Produced by noted Toronto restaurateur Franco Prevedello, a native of Asolo in northern Italy, this is less dry than a brut champagne, with a rounded, more mouth-filling profile. Lively bubbles deliver nuances of apple and pear balanced by crisp acidity. The orange-green label is beautifully designed. A very smart aperitif.
Mollydooker The Boxer Shiraz 2008 (Australia)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $34.95
There's irony in the label's old-style cartoon graphic of a boxer in a tank-top leotard. Presumably, he packs a punch – and so does the wine, which weighs in at a literally stunning 17.2-per cent alcohol. It's evident in this full-bodied red's slightly hot note, but not as much as one would expect. Dark fruit, dark chocolate and a hint of herbs make it suitable for a gigantic steak.
Durbanville Hills Rhinofields Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (South Africa)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $17.95
Named after a field of an endangered group of plants near the Durbanville cellar where rhinos roam, it sits on the fence between the outgoing sauvignon blanc style of New Zealand and the subtler profile of France's Loire Valley. The flavour is bold, reminiscent of crisp, unripe peach, but the wine is light. Good for shellfish.
ERA Merlot Veneto IGT 2009 (Italy)
SCORE: 88 PRICE: $9.95
On the lighter side of medium-bodied, this cheerful red has a smooth, buffed texture, bright cherry flavour and remarkable balance for the money. Unlike many bargain merlots, it also tastes authentic, with a light dusting of very fine tannins for gentle grip. And it's made from organic grapes. One attractive package.