Monday, January 29, 2007

The Great Champagne Flute Caper

The plan was simple. A few dozen oysters, some champagne, bury our noses in couple of good novels – a much deserved, lazy Saturday afternoon. Simple, really simple. Frank volunteered to do battle with the holiday traffic and forage for our living room picnic.

He’s gone a long, long time.

F: Hi honey, traffic sucked. Oh and I made a bit of a detour to the wine store – and a couple of other stops.

Uh oh! Frank’s detours usually involve some new gadget, obscure culinary ingredient, or a vintage bottle for the collection. Still, grasped tightly in hand are a bag from our favourite oyster shop, a bottle that looks remarkably like champagne, and a box marked Riedel.

F: Had to improvise on the champagne – must have been a run on the one we wanted. Found some great new flutes though.

S: What on earth has he done now? New flutes might be nice. And what champagne did you find, dear? There’s something he isn’t telling me, I can smell it.

F: Seaview Brut. Better ratings than the $35 Vu Cliquoit and way less expensive – just over $12 actually. Got a bit carried away on the glasses, but oh well.

S: The glasses look a little… weird. He bought us a $12 bottle of champagne after the week we’ve both had? So how much did they cost?

F: Forty-five dollars. Riedel’s Vinum Extreme. They’re supposed to enhance the taste of the champagne.

S: Now let me get this straight. You just bought us a $12 bottle of champagne and spent $45 on champagne glasses that look like a lesson in geometry? This time, I’m afraid he’s lost it totally.

F: Well actually it was $45 each.

S: So you’re saying there’s something fundamentally wrong with our $5 flutes? Not to mention there isn’t another square inch of free storage space anywhere in the kitchen or the dining room.

F: Apparently, but look at it as a taste test, an adventure. They’d better be good or I’m going to have a heck of a time justifying $90. Ready for some oysters?

The shucking board, lemon, and oyster knives magically appear on the kitchen counter. There’s the comforting sound of a bottle being placed in a bucket of ice, followed almost immediately by the rhythmic sound of shells cracking open.

S: And exactly why are these supposed to be so much better than what we always use? I can’t wait to hear this one.

F: Technological breakthrough. Apparently, Riedel spent thousands on research so the champagne hits your tongue in exactly the right spot. Mind you, I like Robert Parker’s explanation better – it’s flat out hedonistic indulgence.

S: Okay, so hedonistic is good. It better be at this price.

Twenty minutes later, our urban picnic is on the coffee table – three types of oysters, a $12 bottle of champagne, and $90 worth of champagne glasses. Frank pours taste testers into the two new additions to the glass collection and another into the cheapie flutes we’ve used successfully for parties, impromptu visits, and for no special reason special evenings.

S: Hmm. Well I have to admit the bubbles look different – more concentrated in the center of the glass and stronger.

F: Better nose too. Check it out. Ha, she’ll have to admit the nose is better too.

S: Okay, so you’re right – better nose. All right, tasting time.

There’s a lengthy pause. We stare at each other in silence.

F: Crisper on the palette, longer finish.

We alternate sips from each glass. No question – better nose, better finish, more crispness. It’s just plain better out of the Reidel. And the bubbles are still strong. Neither of us mentions that the contents of the $5 regulars are both virtually flat already. Neither one will ever admit to being the one who discreetly removed the $5 flutes.

S: And there are how many different glasses in this line?

F: Oh a bunch. You know, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cab, New World Chardonnay, Old World Chardonnay…

S: Hold it, there are two different glasses depending on where the Chardonnay is made? And exactly how many is “a bunch?” Do I really want to know?

F: About 30. Ready for more oysters?

Over the next two months, the wine glass collections mysteriously grew by a factor of about 500%. We even discovered the correct glass for Tempranillo, a varietal we were only just beginning to love. Eight months later, while entertaining an enthusiastic if eclectic group of friends, we heard a crash from the general direction of the kitchen. As we swept up the remains of the now infamous Reidel Vinum Extreme Champagne flutes, we exchanged glances. No need to say anything, the next day’s schedule would include a trip to the stemware store.

FYI: two of our favourite Vancouver spots to shop for Reidel (and a whole bunch of other interesting stuff) are Puddifoot’s in Vancouver and Herzog Crystal in West Vancouver. Surprisingly, neither have a web page so you’ll just have to visit in person.

Susan Note:

This story actually occurred at the beginning of our serious exploration of the world of wines. Today, although Frank still uses the ISO glasses for official tastings, neither of us think twice about expanding the Reidel collection. To the on-going amusement of many of our friends, we’ve also convinced our favourite pub to let us tuck a matched pair of red and white Reidel glasses behind the bar. What can we say? The wine there just tastes better now.

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