Champagne: To Coupe or Not to Coupe?

I love Champagne coupes.  They’re so chic and elegant, and it’s hard not to feel like Grace Kelly when I’m holding one.  Through the 1960s, the coupe was the glass for bubbles.  Coupes have fallen out of favor with wine experts who pretty much unanimously recommend using wine flutes (or tulip glasses) to drink Champagne. But lately, coupes are vintage redux . . . are they doing Champagne any favors?

grace kelly

There’s an old legend that the Champagne coupe was modeled after the breast of Marie Antoinette (or the Empress Josephine, or Helen of Troy).  Almost assuredly false — fodder for Snopes.com.  Sidebar:  if you mention the word breast out loud while you’re researching your blog post, your 14 year old son will take a sudden interest in vintage barware.

Not that I don’t trust wine experts, but I’m more of a hands-on learner, so I conducted my own scientific experiment comparing bubbles in coupes vs. bubbles in flutes.  I wore a white lab coat and everything (if the Clinique ladies can get away with it, so can I).

For testing purposes, we used Schramsberg’s Mirabelle Brut Rose (and yes, I know this is technically not Champagne).

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There’s a ton of mind-bending (and slightly narcoleptic) science behind this, but lucky for you, I’m not a scientist.

Here are my two test subjects:  Le Coupe (my mom’s Rosenthal crystal coupes, which I count among my treasures) and a Champane flute from Le Target (not as much of a treasure).

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Wow!  Just look at the color difference between the bubbly in the coupe and the flute!  It would be tough to decide which one to grab off a tray at a cocktail party.  Not that I go to a lot of parties where this is a pressing dilemma.

Coupe Science:  Because coupes are shallow and wide, when you pour Champagne into them, the CO2 rises and dissipates over the area fairly quickly.  Look at the way the bubbles congregate and race to the perimeter of the coupe.  You can almost hear them shouting, “Abandon ship!!”.

Pros:  You look très chic holding a coupe!

Cons:  The difference between the coupe and the flute was dramatic.  You have about 3 minutes to drink your bubbly before it turns into still wine.  Champagne also gets warm more quickly in a coupe.  And warm Champagne tastes bad.  And then there’s the spillage problem.  Fill a coupe and try to walk across a crowded room without sloshing Champagne onto your shoes!

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Flute Science:  Flute glasses are tall and narrow.  The smaller surface area slows down the loss of CO2.  Your bubbles last longer, and your Champagne stays cooler.  I love the way the bubbles form vertical streams in the flute, like little ladders.

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Pros:  Your glass will be empty before your bubbles disappear.  And you still look très chic holding a Champagne flute!

Cons:  Cons??

The view from above . . . because sometimes I have artsy moments.

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Conclusion:  Use a coupe for cocktails like Lillet Champagne Cocktail.  But when you’re enjoying Champagne (or sparkling wine) solo . . . use a flute!

Salud!

15 comments

  1. I do love the coupe..I inherited some from my Grandma myself, but unless I intend to down it in one chug, a flute it will be…(Grandma used to make a cocktail that was pineapple sherbet and champagne…always in a coupe. 🙂

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  2. I love the last photo of the coupe that you took. I was wondering if you would share the high res image with me, as I would like to print it to put on the wall in my living room. 🙂 I promise, just one print 🙂

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  3. My reply could be construed as belated, arriving two years behind the other posts… but as I hold my vintage crystal SHERBET glass in hand, filled to the brim with my new fav, Sutter Home Bubbly Pink Moscato, I say keep coupes, SHERBETS, and flutes on hand! (my new fav does NOT replace my go-to, Domaine Chandon Classic Brut (nor the king, Dom Perignon, which BTW, Moet and Chandon, the makers of Dom, own Domaine Chandon!) Ah, Chandon, a sparkling competitor of deliciousness at a fraction of the cost of Dom! Back to the coupe vs. flute! Vintage crystal can strut its stuff in so many ways… several flutes on a tray filled with flowers… a coupe can hold jewelry or rose petals… beautiful vintage sherbets can carry more than the “intermezzo” between courses, as my tasty glass testifies!

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  4. Whichever vessel you prefer it is important to clean is scrupulously before use. There should be no residue of soap or any other element on the surface or the bubbles will not last as long.

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  5. Nice! I was served a cocktail in a coupe tonight and I became obsessed, got home and started googling coupes, and found your article. Thanks for the info 🙂 They are just so cute!!

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