The Best Glasses for Champagne: What the Pros Use

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Flute, coupe, tulip, balloon: Champagne glasses come in many shapes. But which one is the best? Our wine columnist polled wine professionals, and some of their answers surprised her.

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I certainly have to agree regarding the Champagne coupe. This bowl-shaped, typically short-stemmed glass seems better suited to sherbet than wine. My father actually designed and sold such glasses in the middle of the last century, during his time in the glass business, but the coupe dates back much further. The precise point of origin is a matter of some dispute.

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According to Tom Stevenson, the UK-based author of “Champagne” and a renowned expert on the wine, “The coupe was created circa 1663 by Venetian glass-makers working with John de la Cam at the Duke of Buckingham’s glass factory in Greenwich ( the duke having taken over Sir Robert Mansell’s monopoly on glassmaking).” The glass was not originally styled for Champagne, Mr. Stevenson added in an email: It was only later, in the 18th century, that it was adapted for this use.

Visitors to the website of Riedel: The Wine Glass Company will encounter a somewhat different story. In this version, the coupe was styled as a flat bowl because Champagne was much sweeter centuries ago, and the “saucer’s short sides and shallow bowl made it easy for you to dip your cake in it.”

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Maximilian Riedel, president and CEO of Riedel, isn’t a fan, though his company produces a coupe. “I would recommend the coupe be utilized for cocktails and not Champagne,” he wrote in an email, “as the bowl is too wide and will diminish the effervescence, not to mention the many delicious aromas of Champagne.”

Kenneth Crum, beverage director of Air’s Champagne Parlor and Niche Niche in New York City, listed the coupe’s shortcomings in an email: “The rim is too wide to help the CO2 stay in the wine. The stems are usually shorter, which means there’s more of a chance of you warming the wine,” he wrote. Mr. Crum prefers flutes for the Champagnes he serves by the glass and a white wine glass for “our real wine gems,” as he believes its width better conveys the aromas of the wine.

I was surprised to find that the flute was far from a favorite among most of the pros I polled. Mr. Riedel, for one, isnt a fan, though he sells several iterations. “A flute stifles the wine and does not allow for any part of a Champagne to flourish,” he said. “For anyone looking to truly appreciate their Champagne I would recommend anything but the flute.” Mr. Riedel’s Champagne glass of choice is a glass he designed: the Riedel Veritas Champagne Wine Glass ($69 for two, This is Mr. Stevenson’s choice as well for “everyday” Champagne, though he “adores” the Lehmann Jamesse Prestige Grand Champagne 45cl Glass (price ranges from about $40 to $70) and the Riedel Superleggero Champagne Wine Glass ($90) when he’s treating himself.

Aldo Sohm, wine director of Le Bernardin restaurant in New York notes in his primer “Wine Simple” that, while he prefers a white wine glass for Champagne, he keeps a few flutes on hand “because my partner, Catherine, insists…” Bill Marci, proprietor of the San Francisco Champagne Society, a reservations-only lounge specializing in small-production Champagne, told me much the same thing. He keeps flutes on hand for his fiancée, Colleen, but he prefers to drink Champagne from one of several glasses: the Riedel Sommeliers Burgundy Grand Cru Glass ($99), the Riedel Veritas New World Pinot Noir/Nebbiolo/Rosé Champagne Glass ($69 for two) and the Lehmann Collection Signature A. Lallement No. 2 glasses ($85) for Champagnes made from the Pinot Meunier grape. He said his fiancée calls drinking Champagne from these glasses “a wine experience,” while a flute provides “a Champagne experience.” What’s the difference? I asked. “The bubbles,” he said.

I understood what Colleen meant. I like the way a flute captures the energetic effervescence of Champagne, with a column of bubbles fizzing endlessly upward in the glass. I also happen to like the design of a flute, slender and elegant. While the flute may not be the best glass in terms of its ability to convey Champagne aromas, it’s a beautiful glass to hold in your hand.

At Flûte Bar in New York, proprietor Herve Rousseau serves Champagne out of two types of flute. Champagne purchased by the bottle is served in Riedel Champagne flutes, while Champagne by the glass is served in (cheaper) Luminarc flutes. It’s a practical matter: The former must be washed by hand while the latter glass is dishwasher-safe. “When we opened another Champagne bar in New York years ago, we broke 600 flutes in seven weeks,” Mr. Rousseau explained.

New York-based Champagne maven Rita Jammet, owner of the La Caravelle Champagne brand, likes a tulip-shaped glass. “The pointy bottom is best for bubble development,” she wrote in an email. Second choice for Ms. Jammet is a white wine or an all-purpose wine glass. She finds the flute “too narrow for the aromas to develop.” In a dissenting view among the experts I interviewed for this column, Ms. Jammet allowed that the coupe has its place—in creating Champagne towers, for example. She sent a photograph of herself, elegantly attired and beaming, pouring a bottle of La Caravelle rosé Champagne into a tower of coupes for her son’s wedding. I was filled with a mixture of envy and joy at the sight.

While I may not be as discerning as my peers when it comes to my Champagne glassware—and I certainly plan to continue sipping from flutes—I was inspired to make a few changes after these interviews. For example, I might buy a Riedel Veritas Champagne Wine Glass, or perhaps even the Lehmann Jamesse Prestige Grand Champagne 45cl Glass too, if I’m feeling flush. I might also have to buy some Champagne coupes. After seeing Ms. Jammet’s photo, building a Champagne tower is one of my new life goals.

Sip Specific

A shape-by-shape guide to champagne glassware

Tulip Glass

The glass preferred by Champagne purists and many Champagne producers, the tulip looks like a cross between a flute and a white wine glass. narrow and flutelike at the top, it widens to a sort of bowl at the bottom, which allows for greater aeration.

Champagne Coupe

The coupe is the Champagne party glass. It’s basically a big, wide bowl, typically with a short stem, which makes it hard to hold. It’s a lot of fun anyway, especially when piled with other coupes, one on top of another, in a Champagne tower.

Champagne Flute

The flute may be the most elegant—if not necessarily the most expressive—glass for Champagne. Its tall, cylindrical shape sends the bubbles cascading ever-upward, even if it the narrow opening means it’s hard to ascertain a Champagne’s aromas.

Burgundy/Balloon Glass

Some pros insist that Champagne be considered first as a wine, then as a beverage with bubbles. They like the wider mouth of a Burgundy “balloon,” especially good at freeing aromas—though it can make the wine go flat a bit faster.

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Credit: www.wsj.com /

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