Flutes, coupes or tulips… which of these glasses do you drink your Champagne from? Champagne-based wine professional Jiles Halling examines the pros and cons of each type of glass in his guest column
If you go back far enough in history it seems that, even as long ago as the late 17th century when Champagne first appeared on the scene, there was a variety of shapes and sizes of glass to choose from. Short and stubby, tall and narrow, clear glass and opaque glass (the latter was common before riddling and disgorging had been perfected and champagne was often a bit murky).
Sometime later, perhaps around the time of Louis XVI, although some say rather earlier, the coupe glass made an appearance and, in one variation or another, the coupe remained popular through Victorian times, to the roaring 20s, on into the Hollywood era of the 1950s and even beyond.
Perhaps it’s because of the
associations with those, apparently, glamourous times in the past that the
coupe glass has a certain nostalgia attached to it: there’s nothing to match
coupe glasses for building a champagne pyramid and to this day the coupe is still
regarded as the perfect glass for many cocktails. You only have to look at the
Moet Golden Hour glass used at this
year’s Golden Globe awards.
The criticism often
levelled at coupe glasses is that the aromas dissipate before they can be really
appreciated and that the effervescence dies away too quickly.
The first accusation is
certainly correct – the aromas spread out sideways rather than being focussed
upwards towards the nose, but the part about the bubbles dying away too quickly
always seems irrelevant to me because the bubbles in Champagne persist for far
longer than it takes an average person to finish the glass anyway.
Be that as it may, by the time the 1970s arrived the coupe was falling out of favour and being replaced by the tall and narrow flute.
Flute glasses are certainly
elegant – an ideal match with the imagery of Champagne. What’s more, you can
see and appreciate the bubbles rising up the glass and, as long as the top of
the glass curves inwards rather than outwards, you can get a good impression of
the aromas of the wine.
So you might have expected the popularity of
the flute to be unchallenged for many a year yet, but recently the preeminent
position of the flute is being questioned in some quarters.
These days there is a growing
body of opinion, especially amongst more practiced champagne drinkers, that
holds that flutes are too tall and narrow to appreciate the full complexity of
champagne. They’re just not wide enough to swirl the wine and release the
aromas and if you insist on trying to swirl the Champagne around in a flute
you’ll probably slop it inelegantly over the sides and over your hand too.
The answer, according to
this side of the debate, is to go for a much larger, rounder glass, more akin
to the type of glass you’d use to serve still white or red wine, and a plethora
of variations on this theme are being put forward as the perfect solution by
wine writers, glass manufacturers, sommeliers and commentators of all sorts.
Some of the leading Champagne
houses, including Veuve Clicquot are advocating larger glasses so that you can
add ice cubes to your champagne.
One of the reasons behind
the increasing use of larger glasses for champagne is the fact that, for some
years now, Champagne houses have been at pains to present Champagne in a rather
more ‘serious’ light and to emphasise its qualities as a gastronomic wine to be
matched with a wide variety of foods and served during, and perhaps even
throughout, a meal.
If you have never had this
experience, I can highly recommend it. There are so many different types and
styles of Champagne that you can find one to match almost every kind of cuisine
imaginable, from the first course to the dessert.
However, with so many
conflicting opinions and so many glasses to choose from, making that choice can
be a burden as well as a blessing.
It becomes a problem when
things become too dogmatic and that can easily happen if you feel under
pressure to use one type of glass or another for fear of being seen as
unsophisticated, old-fashioned or ignorant if you don’t use the ‘correct ‘ type
It becomes a blessing when
you have the freedom to choose the glasses according to your own preference and
to the occasion.
My own thoughts are that:
- Coupe glasses are still ideal for
Champagne cocktails and to add an unexpected bit of fun to the party.
- Flute glasses are far from a thing of
the past. They’re perfect for classic Champagne receptions when people just
want to celebrate some special occasion.
- Wider, rounder glasses are a good
choice when you are serving older Champagnes, probably during a meal, to
experienced wine lovers who all have the time and interest to discuss the finer
characteristics of the Champagne in the glass.
And the best possible
Try all three types and make up your own mind which you prefer.
Jiles Halling is an Englishman whose career in marketing and sales for major international wines and spirits brands took him to the USA and Japan before spending 17 years living and working in Champagne. Jiles is the creator of My Champagne Expert – a brand new, comprehensive online course all about Champagne and other books and guides on Champagne.