Bursting the Bubble on Champagne Stemware

By the editors of Cook's Illustrated

Is a tall, narrow flute better for drinking champagne than a wide, shallow goblet, or is it just a matter of aesthetics?

Come New Year's Eve, you’ve probably got champagne on the brain. At Cook's Illustrated we took the opportunity of delving into the details of carbonation in sparkling wine.

The champagne glass has changed over the years. Wide, shallow goblets (or coupes) were once the go-to stemware choice, but these days you’re more likely to get a glass of bubbly in a tall, narrow flute. Is one better than the other, or is it just a matter of what you think looks best?

In addition to the fact that the compact shape of a flute can keep champagne from warming too fast, a flute limits the exposed surface area of the champagne, which slows the release of carbon dioxide. The bubbles deliver much of champagne’s flavor (by way of smell); as the bubbles rise through the liquid, they carry aromatic compounds to the surface and deliver them to your nose. So slowing down the production of bubbles ensures good flavor from first sip to last. The larger exposed surface area of champagne in a coupe would logically translate into the faster release of bubbles and thus a more quickly dissipated flavor.

Naturally, we had to see (and taste) for ourselves, so we compared champagne served in flutes with bubbly served in wider goblets.

Most tasters found the champagne in wider glasses to be fizzier yet flatter in taste; they described the champagne as “sweet” and “acidic,” with little complexity.

The flutes delivered champagne with “citrusy,” “floral,” and “fruity” aromas.

THE BOTTOM LINE: So while your grandmother’s goblets may look retrochic, we suggest that you serve your champagne in flutes.

Our online video featuring senior editor Dan Souza delves deeper into the science of carbonation. We take a closer look at carbonated beverages, from seltzer to sparkling wine, and find out what makes them bubbly—and what makes them go flat.

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