• Alexander Smith

The Champagne Experiment

Updated: Apr 11, 2021

Who does not like Champagne or sparkling wine? The question is which wine glass is best?

Spoiler alert: For those who just are looking for the best Champagne wine glass, the winner is the Riedel Performance Champagne Glass ($56 USD for 2), an elegant design that perfectly optimizes the aromas, flavors, and textures of Champagne.

The history of the Champagne wine glasses

First a little history; Most believe the first Champagne wine glass was created based on the breast of Marie Antoinette in the mid-18th century. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and that particular wine glass was created around 100 years prior to her birth, and was used for cocktails and not sparkling wine. By the mid-1800s though, this glass was being used to drink Champagne, and was thought of as a perfect design. Unfortunately, the design could not have been worst, the wine often lost a lot of its bubbles and ended flat.

So in the last few hundred years, the Champagne wine glass has really evolved in design, from a long flute, to a performance style larger bowl, to a regular white wine style of glass. The only way to properly understand the benefits of each design, was to test out the four traditional glasses. This would allow me to determine which Champagne wine glass really maximized the experience, as well as the small nuances between each style of glass.

The test: Comparing four Champagne wine glasses

Left to right: 1) Riesling wine glass, 2) Zalto Universal glass, 3) Riedel Prestige Glass 4) Riedel Performance

Firstly, I should state that all four wine glasses performed well, and there were no significant disappointments. Also much to my surprise, there were significant differences between each of the four glasses, and each glass bought out a different style of the same Champagne. For the Champagne used, it was the Bérêche et Fils Extra Brut Réserve which is a blend of 35% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Meunier and 30% Pinot Noir. It was not just the aromas that were different, but the palate as well showed nuences, an aspect I was not expecting.

The Result: Which Champagne wine glass came out on top?

As mentioned above, I believe that all four wine glasses showed a different style of the same Champagne. The Champagne Wine Glass that best represented the Bérêche et Fils Extra Brut Réserve is:

Winner: Riedel Performance Champagne Glass ($56 USD for 2), a wine glass that perfectly optimized the flavors and textures of the Champagne by allowing a perfect balance between the aromas, shaping the bubbles along with a soft mouthfeel. The aromas on the wine came across more concentrated with heavier orchard fruit notes, the palate felt softer compared to the other wine glasses, yet not lacking any complexity. If anything there was more persistence from the wine with fine bubbles which felt extremely focused.

Runner-up: Zalto Universal Sommelier Wine Glass ($125 USD for 2), I was suprised this came out as runner-up and to be honest this was quite close to the Riedel Performance Champagne Glass. There was less concentration of orchard fruit on both the nose and on the palate, the wine felt more chalky and the bubbles slightly less refined. These though are minor faults, and compared to the standard Riedel Champagne glass, I felt this performed slightly better in terms of overal balance and expression of the wine.

The Riedel Vinum Cuvee Prestige Wine Glass ($43 USD for 2) , showed the Champagne a lot more elegant yet with significantly less bubbles and complexity. This wine glass is more aimed at Non-Vintage entry level Champagne which would require less work than a Vintage Champagne. This glass is also around 30% less versus the Riedel Performance Champagne Glass. Even with the difference in price, I would still recommend the Riedel Performance Champagne Glass.

Finally the Riedel Heart to Heart Riesling Glasses ($37 USD for 2), which are my preferred glasses for blind tasting for both white and red and also the cheaper out of all four Champagne wine glasses. This showed significantly less well, with the bubbles being a lot more agressive, the fruit sharper and less refined and a more flabby mid-palate. Do not get me wrong, this glass does work if enjoying Champagne once a year, however for those who enjoy Champagne on a regular basis, I believe there are better options.

So which Champagne glass do I recommend?

The Riedel Performance Champagne Glass , should be on every Champagne amatures shopping list, however those who are trying to reduce the number of wine glasses they buy, the Zalto Universal Sommelier Wine Glass, does a near perfect job and can be used for a variety of white and red wines.

Now back to drinking some Champagne!

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