In Praise of the Champagne Flute
There are a number of symbols of fine living, of indulgence, of extravagance, even of decadence. Principal amongst these must be the champagne flute. Its crafted curvature, its delicate stem, its sensuous lip and its elongated elegance are unique. The flute is a work of art. It is lovely to hold, a delight to behold, and it contains an elixir, the name alone of which ignites a sense of occasion, of celebration and of joy.
There is no ambivalence about a glass of champagne. When the flute appears, good things are happening and they are to be noted and toasted with a drink and a clink and an appreciation of life.
The flute has one purpose only. It accommodates only one potion. It is shaped for that purpose and none other. It cannot facilitate a glass of milk, would make nonsense of the froth on a pint, would destroy a brandy and intimidate a beer. It would confound the temperature of wine and would be insulted by a soda. It would refuse a sherry, and while it might collude with a cocktail to have it delivered to its own elegant glass, it must secretly disdain the uncouth accoutrements that bedeck that beverage. The flute is understated. That is its strength.
The flute will not join glassware in a dishwasher. It will not occupy a cramped cupboard. It will not jostle for room. It stands alone, elegantly and eloquently proclaiming its special status in its unique space.
The flute knows its place and places itself at the centre of celebration. It is not intended to be utilitarian and would reject such functionality. It is not designed for the downing of alcohol, but for raising the tone of life, and it knows it.
The flute is not greedy. It merely requires that it be half-filled. Excess is anathema to its sensibility. It does not want loud popping of corks or excessive bubbles. It does not contain a drink to be guzzled. The delicacy of its frame discourages that. It does not condone overindulgence. Its contents are to be savoured. Its temperature is to be regulated. Its use judicious but joyful. Its secret lies in the capacity of a little to inebriate.
The flute’s power is psychological as much as physiological. It is symbolic. That is what makes the bringing forth of flutes portentous. There is palaver about it, but it does not disappoint. The flute may be paraded but there is purpose in doing so, whether one is congratulating, or sharing, consoling or celebrating, with family or friends. It says we are together. It says we will mark this time. It says that just for now all the ordinary in life is suspended and what is enjoyable is to be entertained. Without the flute, champagne would be insignificant. Its taste would be destroyed in a tumbler. The flute is part of the felicity.
It would be wrong to think that the flute is inappropriate in times of recession. While it may be made of finest iridescent crystal, it can equally be fashioned of sterner stuff without sacrificing the essence of its shape and itself. Nor does it require frequent use or even extravagant replenishment when it is used. That is its advantage.
The flute can wait. It charges nothing for waiting but encourages by its presence. That presence is a promise. The flute can be unfilled without its purpose being unfulfilled. It is a reminder of past happiness and future potential. No matter how bleak the time may be, it knows that it will be required again, some time, some day for some celebration for someone.
And champagne is not prohibited in times of sadness either. Lady Bollinger, of the Bollinger brand of champagnes, famously said that she drank champagne when happy and when sad, found it comforting when she was alone and obligatory when she had company, trifled with it when she was not hungry and drank it when she was, but otherwise never drank champagne except when thirsty!
Such use of the flute is not to be recommended, but a little of what you fancy is always good for the psyche. The occasional Magnum on a celebratory occasion lifts the spirits and probably costs no more than a few rounds of less festive drinks. We need to learn how to ‘do without’ in these difficult times, but also, if we are fortunate enough, to still have enough, to be glad that we have what we have, and to do what we do with humour, joie de vivre and a spirit of exuberance. Sometimes, that may be done by raising a flute to the future.