From wine educators to James Beard Award winners, everyone agrees: The best thing to drink Champagne out of is a wine glass. But there’s a lot of fine print to that statement, and if you don’t traditionally spend $40 or more on a bottle of Champagne to drink at home, a flute will still do the job nicely. Plus, it has an elegant look that differs from a wine glass, and that’s often what drinking Champagne is all about. At this point, we’ve considered more than 80 glasses in varying shapes and sizes and have put 10 different styles through a total of 12 hours of testing. The Riedel Vinum Cuvee Prestige is our top choice for most people. Its tulip shape, formed of elegant leaded crystal, preserved bubbles best in our tests.
We're upgrading our runner-up pick to the top spot because our two previous favorites from Schott Zwiesel seem to be constantly going out of stock. The Riedel Vinum Cuvee Prestige glass will be our new pick. It's made with leaded crystal with a tulip shape that preserved carbonation best in our tests.
The most important consideration when choosing a Champagne flute is whether or not it makes you feel good when you hold it. Riedel’s Cuvee Prestige strikes an elegant profile while still being comfortable to drink from. The tulip shape also walks the line between that of a tall flute and the more useful (aromatically speaking) bowl of a traditional wine glass. A tiny, imperceptible etching at the bottom keeps your wine carbonated for as long as possible.
The Crate and Barrel Silhouette Champagne Flute lacks the refinement of our top choice, but the tall, balanced glass has the same covetable shape as some of our favorite glasses, for a lot less cash. The Silhouette is made of regular soda-lime glass, so it’s a little more prone to shattering than our pick. There are also no effervescence etchings on the inside. However, for an inexpensive basic meant to round out your collection, the Silhouette is a good option.
When your friends descend for a celebration, whether the glass “does something” for your bubbly misses the point—flutes are fun. At less than $5 each, the Viv makes a gathering festive without costing a fortune. They’re not crystal, and they have a more classic, long flute shape that might hit your nose when you sip. However, they’re more elegant than other restaurant-grade options (typically that’s all that’s available in this price range), and they look beautiful.
My first restaurant book, Bixology: Cocktails, Culture, and a Guide to the Good Life, was published in 2009. I worked full time as a wine-tasting room associate for three years before switching to stomping grapes and cleaning barrels in the cellar. I have sommelier training from the Culinary Institute at Greystone in Napa, California, and on occasion I still pour wine in Sonoma County, where I live.
And we consulted the expertise of the best. Belinda Chang is a James Beard Award–winning sommelier, former Champagne educator for Moët Hennessy, and currently the wine director at Chicago’s Maple & Ash. David Speer is the owner of Ambonnay in Portland, Oregon, and one of Food & Wine’s 2013 Sommeliers of the Year. And Philippe Gouze is the general manager of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the world-renowned farm-to-table restaurant outside New York City owned by James Beard Award-winning chef Dan Barber.
If you regularly spend more than $40 on a bottle of Champagne to drink at home, or more than $25 for sparkling wine like Prosecco, then consider drinking out of a wine glass. It will let the aromatics open and develop (see the section on what the experts say below). Check out our full guide to wine glasses for recommendations that will be great for wine and Champagne.
But if your goal is to make an occasion in your home feel special, then a flute is a must! They do have a purpose above and beyond aesthetics—flutes are designed to make sure your wine doesn’t go flat. But since flutes don’t enhance aromas, they’re mostly about creating a memorable drinking experience. There are also certain Champagne cocktails, like the French 75, that are traditionally served in a flute, so they can be a nice addition to a growing collection of barware, too.
The best flute for you is the one that makes you feel like a rock star when you hold it. But there are other details that really make a glass stand out.
It should also do what it’s intended to do, which is preserve bubbles. This is accomplished most effectively by glasses that have effervescence points or vanishing point bowls. An effervescence point is a tiny etching, often invisible to the naked eye, inside the glass. It gives the Champagne bubbles a dedicated place to latch onto and release from in a slow, steady stream. A vanishing point bowl is a glass that tapers to a very fine point at the bottom, and one of these can also create this effect. But this kind of glass is a pain to maintain, gathering gunk in a tiny space you really have to work to clean out. I dismissed it from consideration.
Through the course of use, I discovered that one of the most important qualities of a good Champagne glass is weight. Heavy glassware is for dark spirits and deep thoughts—Champagne demands something carefree, like the character of the drink itself, and if you’re carrying it around and holding it and refilling it all night, a light glass makes a difference.
They should also be made of the thinnest glass you can find. We spoke to Philippe Gouze, who is the general manager of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the world-renowned farm-to-table restaurant outside New York City owned by James Beard Award-winning chef Dan Barber. They work with glassware designer Deborah Ehrlich to create custom glass pieces for their tabletops. Gouze told us, “The thinner the glass the better the experience is, especially with Champagne because it’s such an effervescent drink, so precious, so beautiful. What I absolutely recommend for the home collection, if you’re gonna buy something, buy the thinnest crystal you can find.” So we paid attention to the thickness of the glass.
If you spend more than $40 on a glass, what you’re getting is a brand name or a specific design. Since at its heart a Champagne flute is meant to make you feel special (as opposed to being a performance piece of glassware), there is an argument to be made for spending money on a brand that you identify with. So if you love Lalique and want to spend the money, do it. But higher-priced flutes have imperceptible advantages over anything in the $20 to $50 range. Everyone who drinks Champagne for a living is putting it in a wine glass anyway.
If you spend less than about $25 per glass, the quality plummets dramatically. Often the product is made of pure glass (instead of some sort of fortified glass or crystal) and it shows. The flute is heavier, not as thin, and often clunkier. In a worst-case scenario, it can be a bit misshapen and the stem can be crooked. Though these imperfections may seem small, once you notice them, you can’t unsee them! And you’ll be left wishing you went with a higher-quality product.
There’s very little existing editorial on what makes one flute better than another. This New York Times piece touches on a few that were tested by a panel of sommeliers, but it’s hardly definitive and not very current. The preferred collections in the article (that don’t cost $85-plus each) include Riedel Ouverture, Riedel Vinum, Schott Zwiesel, and Pottery Barn.
A lot of the things that make a great flute, like quality of craftsmanship and type of glass, can be discovered by taking a cue from our wine glass guide. And the same brands that dominate the wine glass industry dominate in Champagne stemware as well. The heavy hitters are Riedel and Schott Zwiesel. I looked into products from Waterford, Mikasa, Rogaska, Lenox, and Kate Spade—well-known lifestyle brands you can find in a department store. The really high-end brands such as Baccarat and Lalique were not considered, as they generally start at $100 per glass.
In this Chowhound thread people get very specific about what they love about their glasses. In general, they want clear glass, good craftsmanship (no bulges, no bubbles, no crookedness), and a stem (to keep your hand off the bowl).
I ended up with nine glasses that I wanted to test. Glassware in person never looks like it does in pictures, so I checked to see how tall they were, what shape the bowls were, and how well they handled liquid. We also wanted to know if there was one particular shape of glass that excelled at preserving carbonation better than another shape. To test this, we topped up all of our choices with bubbly and tossed in a few Mentos. After observing how much fizz each glass produced, we got a little perspective on how well each could potentially keep your drink carbonated. Tulip-shaped bowls were the big winner, in both practicality of use and bubble preservation.
The Riedel Vinum Cuvee Prestige outsparkles the competition in two ways—fine, thin leaded crystal gives the glass extra radiance, while the Cuvee Prestige’s design preserves carbonation better than any other glass we tested. Considering the quality craftsmanship and materials, this flute is a bargain at $25 per glass.
The Cuvee Prestige has the ideal tulip shape, meaning it has a slightly fatter middle section and curves inward slightly at the top. Tulip-shaped bowls, as well as round bowls, were the two silhouettes that distinctly kept bubbles marching along in slow, steady streams in our tests. The shape can also hold liquid without getting top-heavy.
The Cuvee Prestige also has one nucleation etching on the inside of the glass to help direct fizz. Bubbles are formed in Champagne when the carbon dissolved in the beverage latches onto a particle, forms a pocket, and then floats upward. Some Champagne glasses are laser engraved with nucleation sites or effervescence points, which are tiny etchings that allow bubbles to form and release upward in a continuous stream. By giving the gas just a single, targeted place to escape, carbonation stays trapped in the drink longer. Just imagine how long it would take an entire subway car full of people to unload if there were only one exit, as opposed to several.
With Riedel’s leaded crystal, the lip is very thin, the bowl is evenly blown, and the transition to the stem is flawless. The Cuvee Prestige holds about 8 ounces, which is perfect, because that means a big 5-ounce pour of Champagne won’t reach to the brim, keeping the center of gravity in the glass low and less prone to toppling. It is just shy of 9 inches tall, and while flutes taller than this can be nice, I’ve noticed major problems with top-heaviness as soon as the glass goes above that mark. Longer stems can look precarious when they support heavy bowls.
Price is significant, too—after looking at almost 100 glasses, I found only about five glasses in this shape that were less than $100 per. Half of those are discontinued. At just $25 each, the Cuvee Prestige’s quality is an absolute steal. I have found nothing cheaper made with leaded crystal this flawless, and nothing more expensive that has any additional features to offer. There are lighter glasses, and that can be very nice—our former picks from Schott Zwiesel were about an ounce lighter than the Cuvee Prestige. But the price on the Schotts recently went from $40 to nearly $70 each. That’s just way too much to pay to save an ounce of weight.
And, above all, they feel special. The criteria for flute greatness is largely subjective, but you can see on Amazon that people love this brand, and people I know in the wine and service industry love it, too.
The Cuvee Prestige does what it’s supposed to do with very little compromise. If polished wrong or mishandled, of course it could break. And it’s not the tallest or lightest glass out there—two good qualities I fussed over with some of our former picks, because being lightweight is a great benefit for something you often stand around and hold for a long period of time. But when it came down to choosing between an extra ounce of weight, or a glass that could actually be found and used, the Cuvee Prestige became the obvious choice.
After an additional six months of use, our favorite Champagne flute, the Riedel Vinum Cuvee Prestige continues to perform. The fact that they’re so widely available has proven to be a major advantage—we just donated three beautiful flutes from widowed pairs that couldn’t be replaced because they were discontinued.
The Crate and Barrel Silhouette Champagne Glass is an unbeatable $7. It is elegantly tall (even more so than the Vinum) and tulip-shaped, and despite being made of glass (as opposed to crystal), it didn’t have a whole lot of craftsmanship problems, as far as I could see.
It is significantly less sophisticated than our Reidel pick, however. The soda-lime glass is much thicker, as is the stem. Without the benefit of being leaded crystal, you lose both the ability to make the glass very thin and the twinkle of the glass in the light. There is no effervescence point, so carbonation preservation is a fairly moot point.
Our favorite flute for getting six or more of your family and friends sozzled is the Crate and Barrel Viv Champagne Glass, and the reason is price. No one wants to break the bank passing out glasses for a toast. The Viv is tall, elegant, and available for only $5 each or in a set of eight for $35.
The Viv doesn’t have the characteristics that make higher-end flutes better than others, namely tulip-shaped bowls, effervescence points, and leaded crystal. But we don’t think you want to spend $200 for a party of eight to come over and drink $40 worth of Prosecco. The Viv costs about $5 and looks marvelous. Though it’s made of glass, the lip and bowl are pulled thin, which creates the refined quality that separates restaurant-grade models from more expensive dinnerware.
It’s just the right amount of tall at 9.5 inches—not so stubby that it looks plain, not so towering that you could break it with a glance. Of all the glass shapes Crate and Barrel sells, the Viv flute has the most user-friendly proportions. I walked into the store and examined each one: It doesn’t loom on a skinny stick like the Camille, or get top-heavy when full like the Vineyard. The base, stem, and bowl are in the right proportion to keep liquid stable.
I spoke at length with David Speer, owner of Ambonnay Champagne bar in Portland. He was also voted one of the 10 best sommeliers in the country by Food & Wine in 2013. When it comes to Champagne, this guy knows his stuff.
What does he use to serve Champagne? “The one [glass] I use at my bar where I serve exclusively Champagne and sparkling wine is the Riedel Burgundy stem,” he said. Also according to Speer, Moët-Hennessy, which encompasses Chandon and Veuve Cliquot, has “switched exclusively to white wine glasses” when they conduct tastings. “They no longer want flutes.” And this article at Forbes quotes current Riedel CEO Maximilian Riedel as saying he drinks “Pinot Noir-based Champagnes from Pinot Noir glasses.”
I also interviewed Belinda Chang, James Beard Award-winning sommelier and full-time Champagne educator for Moët-Hennessey. She said Riedel’s “Grand Cru Burgundy glass is, I think, one of the most beautiful glasses that’s made in the world. … We use a similar shape to pour Dom Perignon Vintage Rosé Champagnes into.”
So Dom Perignon, Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, and two of the most accomplished wine and spirits professionals in the country advise drinking Champagne out of a Burgundy glass.
Why exactly? The Guardian has an article detailing some specifics: “The tall thin flute has a very powerful bubble engine … spitting lots of fizz upwards. But there’s so little air space at the top of the glass that flavour is mostly lost to the surroundings. This is fine for young wines, but doesn’t allow complexity to develop. … For these complex older Champagnes, use a wide glass that curves back in towards the top.”
So, is that it? Should you never buy a flute? Why are we even writing this guide? Indeed, nice Champagne is best appreciated in a wine glass, but here the parade of caveats begins.
First, what you’re drinking all the time may not technically be Champagne. Champagne is sparkling wine from the region of Champagne in France. It often has smells that other sparkling wines don’t—smells like yeast and toast and strawberry that are delicate and prized. A wine glass helps bring out those aromas, and that’s what our pros are talking about.
A more common and less expensive varietal, one that you can obtain easily from a grocery store or wine distributor, is Prosecco. This is the stuff that crops up at dinner parties and in Champagne cocktails and at friends’ houses. It’s often not as aromatic as Champagne.
Speer mentioned, “I find Prosecco is less affected by the glass. Until you’re starting to spend good money on Prosecco—and when I say good money I’d say you’re looking at $25 to $40 for Prosecco, the real top-tier stuff that you’re not gonna find at Trader Joe’s or wherever for $10. Put it in a white wine glass, put it in a flute, put it in a Burgundy stem, it’s all about the same.”
You’re probably not spending $25-plus for a bottle of sparkling wine all that regularly at your home, though. According to Speer, this is the sweet spot for price in terms of when you start getting noticeable aromas: “With everything that isn’t Champagne, I would almost put it in a price point category. As soon as you get into that $20 to $25 a bottle price range, they all get better in a Burgundy stem. But kind of below that, I find the glassware doesn’t matter as much.”
A flute does serve some purpose—to keep your drink bubbly. But not all bubbles are created equally. The method by which Champagne is made sparkly creates a ton of very tiny, very small bubbles under a lot of pressure. These bubbles are so fine, the film they create on top of the drink even has its own name—mousse.
But this method—methode champenoise—is expensive and time-consuming, so a large majority of other sparklers are made using a different method that creates much larger bubbles, under less pressure, which dissipate much faster. These bigger, quickly disappearing bubbles are in a lot of those $25-and-under wines and would most benefit from being served in a glass designed to preserve carbonation, which is indeed a flute.
If you’d like the specifics on how sparkling wine is made, Wikipedia lays out all four methods clearly and in exhausting detail, as does this Arrowhead Wine blog post.
Beyond the mechanics, flutes are inherently special thanks to the cultural expectations that come with them. They lack the technical qualifications required of a wine glass, but honestly, how beautiful and fun are they to hold? To sip from? The point of a celebration is to do things that might be outside the normal realm of practicality, so we can appreciate the use of a flute for this purpose, even if it is not always the best glass to use.
It’s currently very in vogue to serve sparkling wine in a coupe, a short glass with a wide brim. As far as our experts are concerned, they’ve unanimously declared them the absolute worst thing to drink Champagne out of, though their shape remains strangely alluring and is great for cocktails.
Speer commented, “Flutes have been the traditional glass for Champagne for a while now, and were originally designed to combat the problem presented by the coupe, which was the Champagne glass you see in all the old movies. Those glasses are horrible for the nose, because you can’t swirl the wine at all, and horrible for the bubbles, ’cause they’re so wide and shallow the bubbles dissipate really quickly. That being said, they are a lot of fun to drink out of for whatever reason.”
Gouze added, “I grew up in France and my family always had coupes to serve Champagne, but years later and being a little bit more savvy in wine knowledge I realize that it’s definitely not something you would want to use for more precious Champagnes. The problem with the coupes is basically that they get the Champagne to go flat very quickly.”
“I think they’re gorgeous,” agreed Chang. “I think they’re great for classic cocktails. But as quickly as the bubbles dissipate, even in the style of glass that I’m recommending to you—a Sauvignon Blanc glass—it’s even crazier in a coupe; you don’t get anything.”
Scientific American reported on a study that endeavored to see if this was scientifically correct. The conclusion was “that there was a much higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the tall flute than the broad coupe.”
When we first published this guide, we tested a number of glasses. We set out to answer a few questions about glass traits: Does the shape of the flute influence bubble preservation? Can one of these preserve carbonation longer than the others? This was worth finding out. I chose these glasses for testing specifically because they look so different from each other, and observed how the CO₂ escaped:
The Bormioli is what you’d call a trumpet shape. I included the Cuvee Prestige because the bottom of the bowl is slightly tapered in the middle. The glass in the middle is the Ouverture. The Ouverture Magnum was our top recommendation for wine glasses, so it seemed appropriate to see what it could do here. Notice the bottom of the bowl is very round. Next is the Edge, repping an extreme version of a shouldered or squared-off base. Finally, the Vinao, a slightly more exaggerated tulip than the Cuvee Prestige.
In addition to shape, we tested to see if glasses with nucleation sites performed better. Though they don’t advertise it as aggressively as the Schott does, both Riedels have etchings as well.
I washed the glasses, polished them, and blew each one out with canned air to ensure the insides were spotless (so bubbles wouldn’t form on particles of dust). I filled each glass with 2 ounces of Prosecco, an easy-to-find, well-loved, and inexpensive varietal. This particular Prosecco was made using the Charmat process. All bottles were chilled to 42 degrees Fahrenheit. I backlit the ever-loving hell out of ’em, and then I observed the streams.
The bubbles in A and D form all over the glass, and in D we’ve even got a couple of big fat ones taking form. This might look cool, but is less desirable because it lets the gas escape from everywhere, and you don’t want it escaping in chunks.
Glasses B, C, and E perform a little differently. There are some pinprick streams lining the outsides of the bowls for sure, but there is clearly more organization happening. In C you can see a thick stream emanating from dead center. B and E have the finest streams, B coming from the middle and in E it’s off to the right.
After observing, I spoke with Leigh Krietsch Boerner, Sweethome’s science editor who has a doctorate in chemistry, and she gave me a great suggestion—wait 15 minutes after pouring the sparkling, then toss a Mentos into each glass to accelerate the nucleation process. Basically, whichever glass produces the most fizz is the one that has the most CO₂ remaining, meaning it was able to preserve the carbonation the longest.
I did this experiment twice, the first time after letting each pour dissipate for 15 minutes.
You can see some of the reaction here:
I then repeated it after letting a new pour dissipate for 30 minutes. The results were practically identical:
The shape of each glass made it very hard to judge which had more foam. And this photo is a decent illustration, but not perfect. The glasses fizzed up at staggered times and for different lengths of times. But after watching my footage and taking some notes, I’d rank them in this order, from least to most effective:
5. The Bormioli (A) had a significantly weaker reaction than any other glass. What you see in this photo is as exciting as it got. That giant head of foam as seen in the .gif is a little misleading … it disappears almost instantly, while the other glasses continue to react for a long time.
4 & 3. A tie between the Ouverture (C) and the Edge (D). The tiny surface area inside glass D makes this a tough call. If I spread the foam out I think it’s very similar to what I got out of C, and both heads dissipated very quickly.
2. To my eye, the Vinao (E) was the second best at preserving carbonation. It didn’t erupt like the Cuvee Prestige, but it also just refused to stop reacting. It sat there for a long time and kept foaming and foaming and foaming.
1. The Cuvee Prestige (B) felt like the front-runner. It’s a wide glass, yet still created the thickest head of foam, and that foam sat there for a long time—maybe 10 seconds.
Lots of foam means lots of carbonation is left, so from this basic observation I drew the conclusion that the Cuvee Prestige was the best at preserving bubble. The Vinao performed second best. And a trumpet-shaped glass is your worst bet for keeping that Champagne fizzy.
As an added bonus, after the reaction settled there remained a surprisingly clear illustration of how the shape of each glass dissipated the CO₂:
It’s absolute chaos inside glass A. It almost looks like someone stuck something in there and swirled the liquid around. But nothing has been moved or shaken—these glasses are just sitting here and have been for almost an hour. To a much lesser but still noticeable degree the bubbles inside the Edge flute are not making a very compact stream, especially when you compare it to the three glasses that have a rounded or tulip-shaped bowl.
After seeing the plumes of bubbles line up in the exact same way in two different experiments, I have to believe that the shape of the bowl has an effect on carbonation. The glasses with the tapered tops and tulip shapes are working overtime to make sure those streams stay where they’re supposed to, and that’s an advantage.
The Schott Zwiesel Vinao was our original pick for this guide, but it’s no longer available.
We liked the Schott Zwiesel Enoteca 1872, but we cannot recommend it due to its increased cost and constant availability problems.
The Crate and Barrel Edge Champagne Glass is top-heavy, unbalanced, and heavy. Also, it wasn’t able to preserve carbonation as well as our top picks. Our testers felt that the Crate and Barrel Vineyard Champagne Glass was too wide for a flute glass.
Though the Riedel Ouverture Champagne Glass handled carbonation very well, our testers felt like they were drinking out of a miniature wine glass.
The Riedel Veritas Champagne Wine Glass is shaped like a regular wine glass and has no flute appeal.
The Riedel Vivant Champagne Flute series had small imperfections on the bottom of the bowls, so we dismissed them.
Like the Crate and Barrel Edge, the trumpet-shaped Bormioli Rocco Ypsilon Flute couldn’t preserve carbonation as well as the other flutes we tested.
Our testers weren’t impressed with the glass quality of the Spiegelau Vino Vino.
Though we liked the look of the Macy’s The Cellar Champagne Flute, its tall, tapered shape gets in the way of your nose.
The Waterford Marquis Vintage Champagne Flute is squat and lackluster. Our testers weren’t impressed by this glass.
Our testers ruled out a number of champagne flutes for a variety of reasons, including weight, height, shape, fragility, high cost, and availability issues. The following glasses were among those that we dismissed: the Bormioli Rocco Riserva, the Lenox Tuscany Classics, the Peugeot Esprit 180, the Stolzle Classic Flutes, the Stolzle Revolution, the Spiegelau Festival, the Spiegelau Vino Grande, the Spiegelau Winelovers, the Spiegelau Hybrid, the Wine Enthusiast Fusion Infinity, the Iittala Essence, the Schott Zwiesel Cru Classic, the Schott Zwiesel Forte, the Schott Zwiesel Classico, the Schott Zwiesel Mondial, the Zalto Denk’Art, the Rogaska Expert, the Nachtmann Vivendi, and the Nachtmann Supreme.
We also eliminated high-end, expensive, and decorative offerings from Baccarat, Lalique, Orrefors, Kate Spade, Villeroy & Boch, Vera Wang, Waterford (other than the Marquis), Mikasa (except the Stephanie), Reed & Barton, Noritake, Ralph Lauren, Nambé , Ritzenhoff, and Royal Doulton. We also eliminated workhorse brands like Libbey, Luminarc, and IKEA that would not be able to compete against the thinner glassware up for consideration in this guide.
Unlike wine glasses, running flutes through a dishwasher may not be a great idea because it has the potential to leave behind some soap residue, which can mess with the bubbles.
Handwashing is the way to go. Don’t use soap. Letting some hot water sit at the bottom is usually more than enough to break up any residue. I have also used a skinny foam brush similar to this one and it worked well. The Huffington Post mentions using Alka Seltzer to break up dried wine at the bottom, and that seems time consuming, but legit.
Polishing is a different matter. The minute you try to reach into the flute to try to polish, the likelihood of snapping it increases exponentially. For the small price of a water spot or two on the inside, just let it air-dry in the rack and polish the rim.
Flutes may not be the best option for appreciating complex aromas in Champagne, but they will keep your sparkling wine bubbly longer than a coupe or a wine glass. They’re also super fun to drink from, and commonly accepted as the standard for celebrations. Our favorite Champagne glass is the Riedel Vinum Cuvee Prestige because it strikes a balance between elegance, price, and quality, and it keeps the bubbles moving slowly through your drink. Cheers!
Originally published: December 14, 2015