Perfect Imperfections

Flutes Glasses Riedel

In order to serve a particular brand of ‘fizz on tap’ at his hotel, a chap I was chatting to at an event this week told me he would need to have special glasses with nucleation points. Now I’m aware of nucleation points thanks to my work with top glassware brand, Riedel. Nucleation points in case you are not aware, are tiny rough laser-etched dots or rings at the base of a sparkling wine flute or glass. The purpose of this ‘scratch’, is to give the bubbles dissolved within your Prosecco (or other fizz) a point of release, helping them to form in your glass. If you’re not convinced, try dropping a raisin in your fizz – it gives a similar effect!
Interestingly, if your glass is perfectly smooth and clean ie, free of dust, debris etc which also act as small nucleation points, then you would have no bubbles in your fizz what so ever. This point was actually proved in an experiment by Möet & Chandon in laboratory conditions, when “after pouring, the Champagne looked simply like a still wine”*.
I had thought that part of being a ‘Champagne flute’, all flutes were flute shaped and had nucleation points. Most of my glassware since starting Just Perfect Wines is made by Riedel, some by Italesse. All their Prosecco glasses have nucleation points and so assumed it was the norm. It seems not, so this hotelier informed me! And yes, he’s right. My old standard flutes don’t have any nucleation points. It would appear that only higher quality glassware made for sparkling wine has these etched scratches to give optimum bubble performance.
Ironically, a lady at one of my Prosecco tastings this week told me after I relayed the above story that she’d bought some flutes from Riedel recently and thought the nucleation point was a manufacturer’s imperfection! Oh no, definitely not. They are perfect ‘imperfections’, intended by the manufacturer.
Julia Phillips
* “Uncorked - The Science of Champagne” by Gérard Liger-Belair, 2013.

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