Five Reasons to Say Goodbye to Your Champagne Flutes

This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register.

OK, I admit it. I watch the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I watch it for some mindless, vapid fun. But, recently I was annoyed by a story line that took place. One of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills had the other women over to her house and rosé wine was accidentally served in a Champagne flute.

Another of the housewives, Dorit, proceeded to make a big deal about this mistake, embarrassing the host. Dorit arrogantly stated, “The fact that I know a wine glass from a Champagne glass is etiquette” and that she feels “like it needs to go in the right glass.”

Well, the reality star needs to know what the right glass is, and it is not a Champagne flute. While the Champagne flutes are synonymous with sparkling wine, ask most sommeliers and they will tell you the same thing. Nathaniel Munoz, wine director of the Rose Café in Venice, California explained, “Champagne has a gorgeous complexity of aromatics from red apple, to golden raisins, to chalk, to rich marzipan and milk chocolate. Restricting those notes because someone thinks it’s fancy to watch carbonation bubbles float to the top of the glass just seems uneducated.”

Maurizio Zanella, founder of Ca’ del Bosco, one of Italy’s foremost Franciacorta producers, offers five reasons why we should never use a Champagne flute.

Reason 1: Breathing 

Franciacorta and Champagne spend a minimum of two years and up to 10-15 years on the yeasts. When we open older red wines, we decant them so that they can breathe. Franciacorta and Champagne are bottles with age but you cannot decant sparkling wine. Therefore, sparkling wine needs to open up in the glass. Unfortunately, it cannot breathe with a Champagne flute as the small opening allows very little oxygen contact. With a white wine glass, the larger opening in the glass allows the wine to breathe and show better.

Reason 2: Taste

The most sensitive part of our tongue, and where the taste buds are located, is on the tip and the sides, where the papillae are located. We do not taste anything in the center of our tongue. Because the diameter of the Champagne flute opening is narrow, when you take a sip, the wine travels straight to the center of the palate. With a glass with a larger opening, the wine can cover the entire palate, hitting the sides of the tongue, and we can really taste the wine.

Reason 3: Ergonomics

When you drink wine out of a wine glass, you do not need to tip your head back. But when you drink from a flute, you have to tip your head backwards in what Zanella calls the “pelican position.” It is uncomfortable to tilt the head back in this position, and Zanella asks, “How can we get pleasure with something that is masochistic?” He also pointed out that if you look at Champagne flutes at the end of most events, there is usually half of an ounce of wine still left in the glass because people do not want to throw their head back to drink it. In addition, when we tip our head back, the wine goes down too fast and does not fill the palate (refer to reason 2).

Reason 4: History

Champagne was created more than 250 years ago. Since the beginning, it was drunk in a coupe, modeled after the breast of Marie Antoinette. While bubbles can quickly dissipate in a coupe, the coupe allows oxygen to influence the wine and you can keep your head upright when you drink. But in the 1960s, a sommelier decided that he wanted to showcase the bubbles of the Champagne and the flute was invented. Let’s go back to how they used to drink it.

Reason 5: Cleaning

Cleaning a flute is challenging. After you wash it, how do you dry it completely? It is not possible to fit your hand, or even a few fingers, all the way inside the class to dry the bottom. If the glass is not completely dry when it is put away in the cupboard, humidity will form and turn into sulfur. You do not want your glasses to smell like rotten eggs, or to think that the smell comes from the wine.

Throw away your Champagne flutes! The right wine for your sparkling wine is a white wine glass or a tulip-shaped glass. The bubbles may not look as elegant but the wine will be able to breathe, it will maintain its effervescence, you can keep from straining your neck and the glass is easy to clean.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.