Along with perfectly formed pats of butter and cloth napkins shaped into impossibly neat swans, Champagne flutes were mainstays of the brunch buffets I enjoyed at the posh hotel my grandparents stayed at when they came to visit. The waiter would come by with his silver trolley and pour Champagne and orange juice into each spindly glass—except mine, which he would fill to the brim with orange juice alone. I loved the ceremony that came with the mixing of Champagne and juice, watching the foamy bubbles erupt over the top of each glass. And I loved sitting there with my elegantly dressed grandparents, sipping my OJ as they sipped their mimosas.
Though a fancy glass of bubbles ties me to those fond memories of brunch with Lois and Richard, the truth is that today I’m just as happy drinking Champagne out of a plain old wine glass. Sure, I may still use a Champagne flute to ring in the new year if a friend happens to have a set, but when I moved into my own tiny New York apartment, I didn’t bother to buy these impractically tall and delicate glasses.
As it turns out, my abandonment of the classic Champagne flute is something that many wine experts support. "I love regular, good [all-purpose] glasses for Champagne. You need to be able to get in there and smell the aromatics; let the bubbles chill out a bit," says Courtney Wieland, the wine director at The Modern. "I think Champagne 'shows' better in a white wine glass," adds Zwann Grays, the wine director at Brooklyn restaurant Olmsted. "If you're really wanting to experience the Champagne, drink it from a white wine glass." That said, they both appreciate certain aspects of the classic flute. "It’s festive and beautiful, and I love those long lines of bubbles," says Grays.
Their general preference for a standard wine glass is also supported by some tests I conducted several months ago in search of the best all-purpose wine glass, one that could handle a bubbly wine as well as reds and whites. I brought Grays and a second sommelier into our test kitchen to help me smell and taste through 10 different wine glasses. For the sparkling wine, I poured a light, bubbly cava—not dissimilar to Champagne or prosecco—into all the glasses in our test. Both sommeliers were perfectly happy to drink the cava from the winning Riedel glasses. They didn’t find the glass to flatten the cava’s bubbles or undersell its fruity flavor.
These glasses have shorter stems and wider bowls than Champagne flutes, and you won’t find them standing next to the linen napkins and shining silverware at any fancy brunch buffets. But maybe that’s for the best. Given a Champagne flute's unitasker status, and the fact that, in many cases, it won't even present the wine as well as a traditional larger-bowled wine glass would, there's not a strong argument for most of us to invest in them.
Of course, pinching the stem of a Champagne flute as I take a sip will continue to make me feel far more elegant than I am, but I otherwise don’t need a Special Occasion glass to celebrate the special occasions of life. I can do that just as well with a perfectly good wine glass—and so can you.
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