Did You Know Flutes Are Not the Best Glasses to Use When Drinking Sparkling Wine? Here, Experts Explain Why
When it's time to pop a bottle of bubbles, most people instinctively reach for a traditional flute glass: the tall, narrow, stemmed drinking vessels we associate with New Year's Eve toasts and wedding celebrations. But did you know that most wine professionals actually advise against using flutes for sparkling wine? Here, they explain why—plus, the type of glass they reach for instead.
Why Flutes Became Popular
For 300 years, the style of glass commonly used to serve Champagne and other sparkling wines was the coupe: a wide, shallow bowl perched on a stem and enjoyed by French aristocrats (if you were dining with Marie Antoinette at Versailles, you undoubtedly would have been sipping from a coupe, as captured in the 1735 painting Le Déjeuner d'Huîtres by Jean-François de Troy, commissioned by Louis XV.) Glamorous, elegant coupes remained popular through the first half of the 20th century, but pretty as they are, they're not an optimal way to enjoy sparkling wines; the large amount of surface area causes bubbles to dissipate quickly. In those earlier days, sparkling wines were meant to be quickly gulped down like a shot: The wine wouldn't remain in the glass long enough to go flat, and the wide bowls made it easier to slurp down.
But the way we drink sparkling wine has changed over time: By the 1970s, wine lovers started to savor sparkling wines and loved the visual look of bubbles shooting vertically up a tall, narrow glass. The flute became the fashionable way to enjoy Champagne, prosecco, cava, and other sparklers.
What Wine Pros Recommend Today
Just as trends in the mid-20th century moved from coupes to flutes, we've seen yet another evolution in the past ten years or so. Sommeliers and wine professionals now acknowledge the shortcomings of the flute: It's simply too narrow. You can't swirl the wine in a flute (and it's swirling which activates its aroma compounds) and the brim isn't wide enough to experience those magical scents when waved underneath your nose. According to Science World, our sense of smell is responsible for 80 percent of what we experience as flavor. Flutes don't optimize the aromas of wine, which leaves out a crucial part of wine enjoyment. Shakera Jones, wine writer, educator, and podcaster, explains: "Champagne is so complex! Both in its youth and with age, there are aromatics that you will miss trying to stick your nose in a flute".
Instead, try a regular white wine glass or a tulip-shaped glass. Michelle DeFeo, president of Champagne Laurent-Perrier US, says, "I believe to truly appreciate Champagne's nuances and aromatic profile, you should use a Champagne glass that is more akin to a white wine glass. Look for something with a more rounded bowl that tapers into a narrower top: this design helps to release the aromatics and then concentrate them so you can really experience the character of a cuvée." Lydia Richards, wine expert and founder of Vino Concierge and Hispanics in Wine, reminds us that it's important to remember that sparkling wine is, after all, still wine. The best bottles of bubbles offer a lot of complexity, just like the best whites and reds out there, and should be sipped out of a wine glass designed to show them off. Richards explains, "By using a Champagne flute, you're depriving yourself of experiencing the full delicious complexity and breadth of aromas, textures, and flavors that Champagne (and other sparklers) can give you."
Ready to Ditch the Flutes?
If you're looking to invest in specialty Champagne glasses, Blaine Ashley, Founder of New York Champagne Week, recommends Lehmann Jamesse Grand Champagne ($70.99 for six, amazon.com), Zalto Champagne Glass ($59, aldosohm.com), and Gabriel-Glas Gold Edition ($89, gabriel-glasinternational.com).