Using the right champagne glass–of the right shape and design–is of utmost importance, as it allows champagne to open up and better express its aromas. The right champagne glass also favors the formation and display of the bubbles, avoids the rapid warming of the wine, and finally, it brings aesthetics to the special moment that opening a bottle of champagne is.
In the painting, Le Déjeuner d’huître of 1735, the glasses used to sip champagne were conical and not very tall and were the same commonly used for all fine wines.
However, other special shapes specific for champagne appeared. Today, the three main options of champagne glasses are the coupe, the flute, and the tulip.
Champagne Coupe: the Old Fashioned
For centuries, and particularly in the Roaring Twenties, the coupe was the glass of choice for champagne. Legend has it that it was modeled on the left breast of the Marquise de Pompadour, the favorite lover of King Louis XV. Although very aesthetic, today it is not considered the ideal glass to drink champagne because it makes it more difficult to perceive the bouquet. The reason is that the bubbles do not have enough vertical length to get properly charged with aromas.
Meanwhile, the large surface area dissipates both the bubbles and the aromas quickly. The wine also warms up quicker given that the stem is usually very short and you hold the glass by the bowl, also leading to easy spillage if you are not careful. This is why the coupe has been completely ditched for champagne, although I see it commonly used for cocktails, often with champagne, with their retro style in line with the trend of modern speakeasy bars.
Champagne Flute: the Most Used
The flute, with its narrow and slender bowl, started to replace the coupe in the 20th century and completely replaced it by the late 1960s. Its design lets the bubbles to travel further, giving a far more pleasant visual appeal. And their usually straight and long stem adds to the aesthetic appeal of champagne. However, its narrow bowl and rim limit the aeration of the wine, hence the expression of the aromas, particularly of older and/or more complex champagnes. Also, the bubbles, in their ascensions, naturally become bigger and the sudden amount of CO2 coming to the surface may give you a funny pinch in the nose at first. I find this to be true if you fill the flute too much and the champagne has a lot of effervescence but in general, I don’t notice it much.
The flute is my favorite glass for any social gathering when you are not focusing on the nuances of champagne but just enjoying it with an elegant and special glass in your hand. I am also a fan of metal flutes; they are useless in the visual appreciation of champagne and its bubbles, but I find the aesthetic of the glass, and the pleasant chilling effect on the lips, unbeatable.
White Wine Glass: the Most Effective
Here the bowl and rim are larger, but not as large as in red wine glass, so that the wine can properly open up, without losing its elegant aromas too quickly. I usually drink champagne with this, particularly if I am eating with it. Admittedly, using an ordinary wine glass kills the ritual of champagne a bit, plus the bubbles do not travel for as long as in the flute.
You can make up for it by using elegant and modern white wine glasses, like the Ikea Dyrgrip for white wine. The advantage of this glass is that the bowl is wide enough to allow the wine to breathe, but flat, so that the glass fills up easily with a small amount of champagne that can display its rising bubble. The rim is narrower than the bowl, concentrating the aromas that do not escape too quickly, and the stem is long and elegant. Last but not least, this crystalline glass is very affordable. For more complex and older champagne, I stick to more traditional and wider white wine glasses, but still of superior design, with a rim that closes up a bit.
Champagne Tulip: the New Trend
Given the elegance of the flute and the efficacy of the white wine glass, the new trend is to use a hybrid between the two: the tulip glass. It is basically a flute with a wider body or a white wine glass with a narrower rim. It permits a good aeration of the champagne, and the aromas open up more than in the flute, and keep them in the glass, thanks to its narrower rim. The glass also maintains the aesthetics and uniqueness of the champagne ritual, but I find it depends on the width of the bowl, where this is emphasized, and how long is the stem, with some designs far better than others. Some are beautiful, but those with the largest part of the bowl close to the rim, are clumsy in the aesthetic and use. The champagne will accumulate next to the rim when you bring the glass to your mouth, and then you have to incline the glass higher than usual to get the champagne, which will come to you all at once.
I have made a selection of many of my favorite champagne glasses for you in Amazon: https://amzn.to/2PsOdL3. Each one has its champagne and moment. Or just use your glasses but I would stay away from any thick one because they look cheap and the chunky rim is not pleasant on the lips. And don’t even consider plastic flutes; not only are you committing a champagne homicide, but you are also polluting the environment. The wine will frost uncontrollably, any elegance will be lost, and the plastic used will be unnecessary.
As for washing the glasses, if you can, avoid the dishwasher and soap; this may leave a film on the inner part that will inhibit the creation of the much-awaited bubbles, and the glass may display little or none. The bubbles need nucleation sites where the gas dissolved in the champagne accumulates until forming minuscule pearls. The best way is to wash the glasses with just hot water and rinse them with a cloth. This will leave minuscule fibers inside that will act as nucleation sites and you’ll have plenty of bubbles forming elegant streams to the top. Voilà! Enjoy.