Champagne is a special beverage and thus deserves a special glass. Needless to say, a typical wine glass just doesn’t do the job for Champagne and you’ll want something special to savour the moment. Choosing the right one for the occasion can be a baffling experience with so many varieties out there.
Furthermore, if you’re splashing out on some nice glasses, it’s important to look after them. In the following guide you will discover not only the various Champagne glass styles but also how to maintain them properly. Finally, you’ll learn how to use and hold a Champagne glass correctly and why this will improve your overall experience.
Why Should You Buy Crystal Glasses?
If you’re looking for something a little special, aim for crystal glass. However, the term “crystal” is a misnomer. Technically, it doesn’t have a crystalline structure but was a historical name originating in Italy.
In fact, most crystal is made with lead. Lead is a remarkably durable element that allows glass to be made very thin and ornate but strong at the same time. Thanks to this, lead glasses don’t come with a lip at the rim of a glass unlike normal glass.
Is Lead Crystal Safe?
Lead may sound like a scary additive. However, it’s not dangerous as wine is not in contact with the glass long enough to leach lead into it. In fact, it takes weeks for lead to seep its way into liquid. Note that lead-crystal isn’t dishwasher safe however. Lead is a porous material so it absorbs chemical aromas and corrodes in a machine. Over time, the glass will irreversibly cloud and become fragile.
Nevertheless, lead-free alternatives exist where the additive is instead zinc or magnesium. They’re also very durable and unlike lead-crystal, they’re dishwasher safe. However, if you read below, you’ll see that we don’t recommend dishwashers.
The benefits of high-quality crystal glasses are numerous. Firstly, it creates more bubbles that form due to crystal’s rougher surface texture. This is not only more pleasant to drink but helps aerate the Champagne. Secondly, it refracts the light, which allows you to admire the robe through prisms. Finally, crystal sings when you make a toast with a heavenly ring.
Crystal glass is indeed more expensive than normal glass. However, it’s also more ornate and durable as described above. But if you prefer normal glass, there are high-quality alternatives. For example, Borosilicate glasses offer long-lasting durability. Some even suggest thicker glass is better for cooled wines as they offer slightly more insulation.
What Are The Best Glasses For Drinking Champagne?
Above are the most common Champagne glasses that you’ll find on the market in order of effectiveness. Click on the one you want to learn more about. Alternatively, keep scrolling to learn more about each one.
Flower Power: The Tulip Glass
Recently, many Champagne houses, restaurants and sommeliers alike have begun to shun other conventional Champagne glasses. They argue that long flutes prevent Champagne from revealing its aromas and achieving its true potential. For a while, many professionals simply resigned to using white wine glasses. Although this is a good alternative, it wasn’t specifically designed for Champagne.
In the late 2000s, sommeliers and physicists in Reims developed the perfectly balanced glass for Champagne. This retained a slight spherical shape to encourage vertical movement yet ensured the mousse was taken into account.
Essentially, tulips are hybrids between a flute, a coupe and a white wine glass. They are designed to ensure that the bubbles properly rise and carry the aromas to the surface like a flute. The curve of a tulip glass starts with a gradual ascent like a coupe for heightened bubble creation. The curve’s gradient increases into a vertical point so they build up on their way to the surface.
At its widest point, a greater surface area has more bursting bubbles to reveal the aromas. The aromas are contained within the tapered bulb and don’t escape, which allows concentrated aeration. With a tulip glass, you’ll be able to appreciate the aroma’s subtle complexities without losing the bubbles.
Which Tulip Glasses Should You Buy?
Riedel Veritas CEO, Maximilian Riedel, has developed his own tulip glasses in order to phase out flutes. His premium Veritas series claim to be the finest and lightest machine-blown lead crystal glasses ever made. Furthermore, they’re surprisingly affordable and can be found on Amazon.com for around $50 a pair.
Alternatively, a set of 4 crystal tulip glasses from this pedigree French gourmet company, Peugeot, fetch for as little as $40 on Amazon.com.
Refined But Limited: The Flute
You’ve probably already used flute glasses and these are a solid choice that perform relatively well. They’re the most common choice for Champagne that retain the bubbles due to their narrow base.
Flute glasses are tall vessels, which allow for bubbles to accumulate and deliver sharp and dense effervescence. Furthermore, the height allows for an enduring visual appeal in watching the bubbles rise. In order to encourage the fizz, a point is sometimes etched into the inner base, which creates a vertical flow of bubbles.
However, flutes suffer from certain drawbacks. Firstly, they are very easy to overfill, which causes the aromas to escape rather than concentrate into a bouquet. Therefore, the Champagne aerates poorly and never fully reaches its potential before tasting.
Secondly, their height and narrow base makes them very easy to tip over. A particular fashion is to have exceedingly tall and thin flutes, which although visually appealing are incredibly unstable.
Flutes are best reserved for special occasions and events. Although their forms don’t offer the best experience for tasting, their form is elegant and ideal for clinking. Some flutes come with trumpet curved rims which make it easier for the glasses to make contact without accidents.
Best Flutes On The Market
Firstly, Waterford’s Elegance Collection offers a range of very elegant flutes fit for special occasions. Their Champagne trumpet feature a 30 cm (12 inches) tall and modern profile. Crafted with hand-made crystal with a deep V plunge and pulled stem, they can be found at $60 a pair on Amazon.com.
Alternatively, their historical Lismore glasses that were first designed by Miroslav Havel in 1952, were re-released in 2002. These spectacular flutes are made with thick crystal to refract light and a diamond and wedge cut pattern. Named after the Irish castle, their trumpet curve makes them an excellent choice for toasting. However, they’re an investment at $95 for a pair on Amazon.
Finally, if you need something on a more suitable budget but are still looking for quality, Bella Vino offer two lead-free crystal flutes for $18.
Roaring Decadence: The Coupe & Saucer
Coupes or saucer-shaped glasses are reminiscent of 1920s debauchery and speakeasies. The story goes that the first of these large domes were moulded from Marie Antoinette’s breast. However, it’s unlikely that there is much truth to that tale.
Coupes are flashy glasses that provide fast aeration and aroma development. However, they’re very ineffective at maintaining the Champagne’s aromas and the bubbles expire very quickly. Not to mention, they’re quite unstable due to their top-heavy structure.
Furthermore, their shape allows them to be stacked into a pyramid and the Champagne poured into the top like a fountain. In short, the coupe is best reserved for big events where they’ll be a lot of Champagne to consume and fast. It’s unsurprising then that they’re often associated with the Great Gatsby!
What Are The Best Champagne Coupes?
If you’re convinced that what you need are coupes then there are a number of options available. With period dramas and revival films, coupes have made something of a comeback and the market has resurged.
Waterford again offer classic coupes with an elegant finish. They’re handmade lead crystal with a v-shaped plunge and slight trumpet rim for easy drinking. A pair can be purchased on Amazon for $55.
Alternatively, if you’re looking at equipping yourself for a celebratory get-together, LSA International supply a 10-pack of saucers for $85 on Amazon. This provides enough to make a three-tiered tower and can hold either a magnum or two standard champenoise bottles.
How To Maintain Champagne Glasses
Sometimes we reserve certain crockery for special occasions. However, they end up being so precious that they never leave the cupboard and just collect dust for years, which is a shame. If you’re taking the leap into getting some particularly nice glasses, don’t hide them away. Instead, use them regularly and just ensure that they’re properly maintained!
Always wash glasses by hand instead of the dishwasher. Dishwashers can cause a build-up of limescale or cloudy glasses, which have an effect on both the taste but also the bubbles. Furthermore, remember that the lead in crystal glasses is porous, which means it corrodes in a dishwasher.
How To Hand Wash Champagne Glasses
- Use hot water for normal glass or lukewarm for crystal.
- Apply only a small amount of washing up liquid.
- Rinse thoroughly with water.
- Air dry or use a clean towel sparingly
It’s always best to air dry Champagne glasses as cloths can leave lint or stray odours on them. Give the glasses some time to cool down to room temperature. They should be slightly cool to the touch when serving.
Finally, be wary of any nearby odours such as the washing liquid or if they have been stored in a cupboard.
How To Fill & Use Champagne Glasses
All wine glasses are designed with delicate stems not just for decoration but with a practical function. Firstly, holding the glass by the stem rather than the bowl prevents the contents from being warmed up by your fingers. This applies not just for Champagne but for white and red wine too.
Secondly, keeping your fingers off the bowl leaves the glass clear of any smudges. Therefore, you are able to clearly admire the wine’s colours and the Champagne’s bubbles!
Remember to pour down the side of the glass. The reduces the build-up of foam and the loss of bubbles.
On a final note, remember to only serve the glass halfway. This allows a bouquet of aromas to form in the top half of the glasses to enhance the tasting experience. If you’re using a Tulip, only fill up to the widest point for the same reason.
Note: Visit our Guide to Serving Champagne to learn more about how to properly serve and pour Champagne.
Now that you have read about the best glasses, learn how to choose the right Champagne to fill them! Alternatively, explore the Champagne region and its geography with our guide for the best experience.