“What kind of glass do I serve Champagne in?”
Most of us are aware that up until recently, Champagne was typically served in a flute – a tall, thin glass on a stem of around 150ml capacity. This is still mostly fine; its better than a plastic or paper cup. But in this day and age of accessible fine dining and the rise of the culinary experience, it is unsurprising that Champagne serving has also evolved in pursuit of extra-sensory appeal and an enhanced experience.
More and more Champagne houses are now offering tastings in specially designed tulip or white wine glasses – indeed many of the large houses’ Instagram accounts are now full of pictures of elegant young things quaffing fancy plonk in fine crystalware from Riedel and such. The expectation is that you too should now pop your flute set in the recycling and go and grab yourself some new tulips should you want to crack open a bubbly.
This is not the first time that in-vogue Champagne glassware has undergone a change.
To help you understand the pros and cons of each type of common serving glass we have provided the following guide:
The old faithful. When you go to the local Pub and ask for a bubbles your old friend the Flute makes an appearance. Flutes come in many different shapes and sizes, but essentially they are a tall, slender stemmed glass that lets people across the room know you are drinking bubbles.
Flutes are slender to allow Champagne to sit deep in the glass. This is for show as the nucleation point at the bottom of the bowl creates the streams of bubbles, which are focused through the middle of the wine. The depth of the wine means these streams are quite long and very visible – and thus enhances the visual experience of having Champagne.
Decent flutes will be more like the diagram on the right, with a gentle inward taper at the top. This allows the smell of the wine to be more focussed to the drinkers nose as well as trapping the gas from the bursting bubbles in the top of the bowl and holding its freshness a little longer. The downside of a flutes aromatic potential is its rather small surface area to provide fragrance.
The item on the left is a designer piece: all form and no function (aside from holding wine). Its open top allows plenty of gas to escape and leaves your bubbly… less bubbly. You should avoid owning/using these.
Depth of fluid allows long bubble streams
Retention of gas (if tapered inward)
Limited aromatic benefits
Painful to clean
Release of gas (if tapered outward)
The grand old Coupé glass. Long thought dead and outdated for anything but cocktails, these glasses are back in rotation thanks to the Great Gatsby and the revival of 20’s style parties.
A myth is that the Coupé shape was modelled off a famous boob (although they pre-date said famous boob).
Coupé glasses come from a time of opulence and aristocracy, and Champagne was a much different drink in those days. In order to compete with other esteemed French wine regions at the time, period Champagnes were chock full of sugar and drunk with dessert. In order to contain the syrupy, sweet goodness Coupé glasses were quite useful.
Unfortunately for most of todays now Brut (Dry) style of Champagnes the Coupé glass is a poor choice of serving glass. The wide and low bowl makes it all too easy to spill good money all over your wrists and floors – but even more critically the shape allows a very large surface area for gas to escape leading to your fizz dying out much too young.
Avoid using these as much as you can unless you absolutely have to build a Champagne fountain because these glasses are best suited to stacking, and the Champagne loses so much fizz cascading over the sides of glasses multiple times anyway.
At a stretch if you want a 20’s style party then go for a Sec (sweet) style Champagne – its more period appropriate.
Shaped like a boob
Easy to clean
Practically no aromatic benefits
Fast release of gas for flat Champagne
The Tulip glass is a newer style of glassware invented in a collaboration between a Sommelier and a Glass blower for use in fine dining establishments.
Named so because its shape is reflective of a tulip flower when it is closed, the objective of this glass style is to provide a larger surface area of the wine (poured up to its widest part) which releases more gas than a flute and focuses it to a narrow nose for optimal aromatics.
The nose section also acts as a choke point for gases so that freshness is also retained. The depth of the glass is also quite reasonable to still allow for the appearance of bubble streams in your drink.
It has been known that Riedel is hoping to kill off flutes in the next few years and move towards Tulips and white wine glassware.
So classy & modern
Decent bubble streams
Retention of freshness
Painful to clean
Anonymity of drink to potential handsome suitors across the room
White Wine Glasses
Remember that time you were serving Champagne and you ran out of flutes and had to use your wine glasses? You may have apologised to your guest about the glassware – but there are reasonable odds that you may have been actually enhancing their experience.
White wine glasses – good ones – perform much the same as a Tulip glass as long as the shape is correct. That is; notably tapered inwards toward the top with a reasonably wide bowl. Some wine glasses have a very slight inward taper and they will not do all that well for smell or gas retention, but if you plan on hosting a proper tasting session (covering both smell and taste) the best white wine glassware is similar to the diagram above. The downside is the shallow depth of wine in these glasses do not put up much of a bubble stream show.
But as an added bonus they serve very well for flat white wines too!
Retention of freshness
Painful to clean
No long stream of bubbles
Red Plastic Disposable Cups
While not technically Glassware the venerable old red plastic cup has been in style since its invention. While not at all appropriate for Champagne, if you find the hidden plonk stash of the house party hosts parents in some poorly secured location, then desperate times call for desperate measures.
I would only suggest that you try to completely remove all traces of what you were drinking previously – this will no doubt affect the aromatic experience the Red Cup can offer when trying to express the fruit and floral notes of your acquisition. A fresh water flush and upside-down shake should suffice.
Easy to confuse with someone else’s cup
Bad for aromatics
Up Against the Glass
As noted in the description of Champagne Flutes, most bubble streams in your Champagne are created at Nucleation points – very, very small imperfections in the glassware surface that allows Carbon Dioxide gas to build up until it is big enough to float skywards to freedom.
The finer the quality of glassware, the less the imperfections. This translates to smaller size bubbles in lower amounts which helps the drink retain its freshness and vitality.
Some glasses have supposedly had nucleation points strategically lasered into place at the bottom of glassware to create more or evenly distributed bubble streams in the wine.
A cheap Champagne glass is quite thick and robust – common in hotel room kitchenettes and catered events. A fine glass is practically paper thin and ultra fragile. They can be broken by handwashing very easily (I know this all too well).
The key is to not spend all your pennies on super-fine glassware (unless you have plenty of pennies!) – but to find a great middle ground of durability, quality -and of course – shape. This of course allows you to keep more money for Champagne!