The demand fopr champagne glasses during the 19th century gew at an accelerated rate. After the initial somewhat provincial start for the movement in the 18th century, champagne production began to morph in to a substantial international industry as the Regency period drew to a close.
By the mid 1800’s many of the still-current “big names” in the trade were already established, following in the footsteps of Veuve Cliquot who first formalised the methodology and practicalities of large scale production. Bollinger, Krug and Pommery all took their place in the directory of producers, joining the likes of Moet & Chandon, Piper Heidsieck and Taittinger – already extant for decades, albeit on a smaller scale.
This was, of course, simply a case of supply keeping pace with demand, as champagne was by now the “go to” drink of any discerning Victorian socialite, largely due to the fact that it became more and more widely available as transportation across Europe became easier to effect. Its appeal was broadened by somewhat curious means on occasion – it became hugely popular in Russia, for instance, having been shipped there in bulk alongside Napoleon’s Grand Armée on their ill-fated march to Moscow.
Although formerly a drink of almost universal appeal, there was a conscious effort by producers to position their product at an ever higher level in the social stratosphere with endorsements by gentlefolk of esteemed standing being commissioned by way of early “celebrity advertising”. By the time that France was fully immersed in La Belle Epoque the drink was irrevocably established as the intoxicant of choice for the upper classes, and its transition from populist tipple was complete.
This repositioning was, of course, reflected in the glasses which were by now specifically designed for the drink. Having reached its high water mark of popular appeal at a time that the techniques of bulk production were beginning to be applied to glassmaking, there were swathes of relatively plain, slice-cut flutes on the market, even before the yet more generic moulded pieces began to appear. However, given the carefully cultivated perception of exclusivity, there is also a rich seam of highly decorated, very finely enhanced champagne glasses from the 19th century to be appreciated too.
Naturally, these more decorous pieces tended to be in the coupé style, as the bowl shape was far more conducive to the application of engraved designs which – as was the case across all glass types – was a great favourite of the Victorians given its suitability for the depiction of specific, ornate and very elaborate scenes, as well as having an inherently ostentatious comportment.