Flute, coupe or tulip? These three different glass styles are all intended as Champagne or sparkling wine glasses, yet they are significantly different in shape. You may know that the shape of a glass can drastically alter the taste experience of your drink, so when it comes to a luxury like Champagne and sparkling wine, you want to make the right choice for your glass cabinet.
This begs the question: how does each shape alter the tasting experience, and – most importantly – which wine glass is best for you?
This style is referred to as a ‘coupe’ by aficionados, but you may know it better as the Champagne saucer. The glass has a wide and shallow bowl and is the oldest type of Champagne glass, most popular in the early 20th century.
The endurance of the glass style may be due to the fact that it can be seen in many media representations today, with its connotations of popular eras and luxury: the Champagne saucer evokes imagery of a grand, 20’s-style extravagant shebang (Great Gatsby themed party, anyone?) or a luxury celebration in the 1960’s – when the coupe was also popular. Think Boardwalk Empire style. The saucer is aesthetically a vintage and timelessly stylish design, but has today been overtaken in popularity by the flute.
Why is this? The Champagne saucer was traditionally designed for the style of Champagne favoured at the time of its popularity in the early 20th century: a bubbly dessert Champagne made sweet with extra syrup.
The design is not as popular as it once was due to it not being able to capture the qualities of the type of Champagne we know and love today. The shallow bowl means that bubbles do not develop so much and the large surface area exposed to air means both bubbles and aromas dissipate quickly.
If you like your Champagne with a fizz, you’ll have to drink it fast before it becomes a flat wine in a saucer. In addition to this, the shallow shape also presents a constant danger of spilling your very lovely Champagne.
However, if you are charmed by the style and choose to invest in a Champagne saucer, they can also be used as a very elegant desert dish.
Conclusion: makes an iconic novelty for parties and hosting, but not great if you want the best from your Champagne.
The Champagne flute is today’s icon of luxury and class. Aesthetically, it has a tall, thin bowl and a medium to long stem, a shape that makes one immediately think of sophisticated and indulgent celebrations.
If you like your ‘Fizz’ fizzy, this glass delivers: a rough bead at the base of the flute causes bubbles to congregate and then quickly rise to the top of the glass. The bubbles capture and rapidly deliver lots of flavour and aroma, while also being visually impressive. In comparison to the coupe, a flute really gives more ‘oomph’ to the wine: more bubbles are generated which float rapidly to the surface, meaning more fizz for the senses.
However, little air space at the top of the glass means that the flavours and aromas can be mostly lost. The shape of the flute is created to retain carbonation, but it restricts development of the wine: there is very little room for flavours and aromas to collect and develop. While this is not so much a problem for young wines, older and more complex wines need a glass which allows this room for maximum development of the Champagne’s character.
Conclusion: An iconic style for bubbly ‘Bubbly’, but not recommended for older wines with complex flavours, which should be given more room to develop.
The elegant Champagne tulip is a style that is not as distinguished as the coupe or flute, but does have a lot to offer Champagne and sparkling wine lovers.
The shape is similar to a flute but with greater bowl space: a slim base opens to a widening bowl which then narrows slightly towards the aperture (the shape of a tulip flower). Similarly to a flute, a tulip will develop and maintain lots of bubbles, but having a wider aperture means that the bubbles will end up hitting the right regions on your tongue rather than ending up in your nose.
The wider bowl is beneficial as it allows a little more room for aeration of the wine, and therefore allows greater development of flavours and aromatics. The narrowing towards the rim also captures and preserves the aromas in the glass and focuses them more towards the nose, to inhale deliciously with every sip.
If you are investing in fine Champagne, these glasses will present all its qualities to a greater extent than the flute.
Conclusion: A solid choice for any Champagne or sparkling wine, especially more mature wines which need a little more space to develop.
If you’re lucky enough to experience a super-premium Champagne, consider drinking it from a good quality red or white wine glass. These great wines will be extremely complex with delicate qualities that need to be preserved and allowed room to breathe. A large bowl like that found in a Burgundy glass will give your Champagne or sparkling wine more depth and accentuate the aroma, maximising its intricacies like a symphony played through the finest speaker system.
All the beautiful glassware featured here can be found at www.smedson.com.
Original photography by @SmedsonGB
Main photo Leonardo DiCaprio in Baz Luhrmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’.