Champagne is to be savoured not drunk.
Not greedily swallowed down
But tasted carefully, in slender glasses,
One thoughtful sip at a time.
The best Champagne glass is the one that sets off the elegance of the wine while also allowing a thorough appreciation of its distinctive qualities. Only the most delicate glassware can fulfill these requirements and crystal glasses are best of all. The ideal Champagne glass is smooth and transparent, with a clarity that showcases the Champagne’s signature winemaking.
A Champagne glass must be functional. Its shape has an influence on the behaviour of the bubbles. There are round-bottom glasses and others with pointed bottoms that promote the development of the mousse. Glassmakers have made the most of this characteristic by designing glasses with hollow stems that enhance the ebullience of the bubbles.
Some glasses make Champagne go flat. Louis Pasteur in a letter dated 23 February 1858 noted that the dissolved carbon dioxide in a liquid escapes when it comes into contact with rough surfaces. This explains why a glass that is perfectly clean and smooth will quite probably paid to the effervescence entirely once the Champagne is poured. So before blaming the wine, try serving it in a glass that has been cleaned differently or another type of glass altogether. To avoid precisely this kind of problem, the best Champagne glasses have a star or sometimes tiny scratches etched into the bottom to keep the wine carbonated for as long as possible.
Irregular bubble formation can also be due to the way the glass is cleaned. Traces of detergent left by improper rinsing can produce a range of bizarre effects. Typically, the mousse fails to settle and the cordon (beads of carbon dioxide that form in the glass as the wine is poured) persists indefinitely without reabsorbing. So our advice is to avoid household detergents altogether when washing Champagne glasses. Restaurants and wine bars, in particular, should run their Champagne glasses through dedicated glass washers that use commercial glass cleaners.
When storing Champagne glasses in a cupboard, always stand them upright (bowl up, base down). Otherwise they may take on a cupboard smell (no matter what lining material you place under them), which will show through in the Champagne. To avoid dust collecting in the glasses, simply cover them with an odour-free cloth.
The best way to clean wine glasses, tried and tested by a major Champagne House, is as follows:
The flute, with its tall, tapering bowl, is ideal for examining a wine’s appearance. It also features a flared rim that makes it particularly suitable for Champagne. The only downside is fragility and the risk of overflowing if you pour the Champagne too quickly — minor drawbacks overcome by careful handling.
The coupe on the other hand is actually the bane of Champagne. It prevents a proper development of the mousse and allows the bouquet to escape.
The tulip glass, now considered the gold standard for Champagne, first came into use circa 1930. Design consisted of a "truncated egg-shaped" bowl supported by an elongated, solid glass stem. Note that tulip glasses are more usually known in France (and listed in catalogues) as le verre à Champagne classique, while what the French call a coupe the English tend to call a Champagne glass (or Champagne ’saucer’).
The tulip glass has an elegant shape, designed to be held by the stem as required by wine etiquette. This has the dual advantage of showing off a fine hand, while also allowing the drinker to hold her glass without warming the Champagne. No such luck with a coupe, which can only really be held by the bowl. The tulip glass is also big enough and deep enough to do full justice to the bubbles and the mousse. Its wide bowl narrowing at the top meanwhile serves to concentrate and also develop the aromas thanks to something called the Venturi effect: the way an air stream speeds up as it moves through a constricted section of pipe.
Tulip glasses come in a range of sizes but for the sake of style and practicality a Champagne glass must have a slender, elegant shape. Ideal dimensions are: 185-210mm overall height; 90mm depth of bowl; 95-120mm stem height; 62.5mm maximum rim diameter; 74mm bowl diameter at the widest point; 70-75mm foot diameter. These dimensions represent a maximum usable capacity (ie filled to within 1cm of the rim) of 22.5cl. So with one bottle of Champagne you can fill five such glasses two-thirds full or eight glasses half full.
There is also the ISO tasting glass — like a large tulip on a short stem, mainly reserved for professional tastings but with a small capacity that also makes it suitable for large, no-frills receptions. One bottle of Champagne will fill 8-12 tasting glasses depending on their capacity.
Then there is the pomponne, an ingenious Champagne glass that cannot be held by the stem for the simple reason that it doesn’t have one. The pomponne is a curved or straight-sided flute with a glass ring or ball at the base. The origins of the pomponne remain largely unknown.