Yes, the glass used really does make a difference to the taste of your bubbly

Lebohang Nthongoa enjoys a champagne tasting with a difference thanks to aromatic scents and assorted stemware

11 December 2020 - 11:21 By Lebohang Nthongoa
Champagne was the order of the day.
Champagne was the order of the day.
Image: Supplied

I spent a pleasantly surprising afternoon with G.H. Mumm when they invited me to a tasting of their Grand Cordon and Grand Cordon Rose champagnes recently. 

In my mind, I thought of the ordinary “one kind of glass and many different wines to compare and enjoy” kind of experience.

I soon knew I was in for a tasting with a difference when I sat down at the beautifully decorated table to discover my place setting included five tiny vials filled with different aromas.

The Covid-conscious event was hosted by Marie Silvestre, the company's brand ambassador, as well as Laurent Fresnet and Gabriel Lepousez, who joined us digitally.

Laurent Fresnet, G.H. Mumm's new cellar master, guided us through the tasting virtually.
Laurent Fresnet, G.H. Mumm's new cellar master, guided us through the tasting virtually.
Image: Supplied

Fresnet is the new G.H. Mumm champagne cellar master, while Lepousez, a neuroscientist, was on hand to explain the scientific mechanisms behind the bubblies and tools we'd be using to taste them.

THE SMELL TEST

We were soon invited to sniff the contents of those mysterious vials. Each contained a single molecule aroma: violet, Damas rose, bergamot, fresh butter and Linden honey.

We smelt the first three aromas, which I found to be soft and light. A few people detected almost no smell, while some found them slightly stronger than others.

This test was to show that people's sense of smell is not all the same, which in terms of champagne means we experience the same bubbly in different ways.

Five different aromas demonstrated how people's sense of smell differs.
Five different aromas demonstrated how people's sense of smell differs.
Image: Supplied

Next Fresnet introduced the G.H. Mumm Grand Cordon champagne and our glasses were filled.

We were asked to smell each vial again, taking a sip between scents. Doing so allowed us to isolate those same elements in the bubbly.

We then sniffed the contents of the last pair of vials and tasted our drinks again. Each aroma underlined and revealed new facets of the champagne, showing its complexity.

Fresh butter revealed pastry notes and the reserve wines (the base wines the cellar keeps to balance future wines) in the champagne, while the Linden honey revealed floral notes and ageing.

DOES THE GLASS MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

The biggest surprise came when we tasted the same champagne but this time in a goblet made from frosted glass. Not only did it have a different texture to the previous glass, it also had a thicker bowl and a much heavier metal stem.

This glass revealed a fresher texture, extra burst and more bitterness in the Grand Cordon. It was still a pleasant taste, I just found it much stronger and bubblier than when sipped from the classic glass.

Tasting G.H. Mumm champagne from a frosted glass.
Tasting G.H. Mumm champagne from a frosted glass.
Image: Supplied

We tried a similar experiment after Fresnet introduced the final champagne of the day, the G.H. Mumm Grand Cordon Rosé, which had fruitier notes than the first.

We sipped the Rosé from a classic glass and then from a purple glass, which had a thicker bowl and a metal stem. The darker colour of this glass affects the amount of light that can come through and so may possibly influence the drinker's perception of the taste of the bubbly.

I found the Rosé had more depth and a more mature taste when I sipped it from the purple glass as opposed to the translucent one. 

Tasting G.H. Mumm Rose from a purple glass.
Tasting G.H. Mumm Rose from a purple glass.
Image: Supplied

Overall, this was a great “knock at the door” to the festive season. I'm planning to recreate some of the fun by serving champers with a selection of different glasses when cracking open a bottle or two with my friends and family these holidays.

To find out about the possibility of experiencing a similar tasting with Silvestre, e-mail marie.silvestre-ext@pernod-ricard.com