The champagne flute is considered both glassware and stemware. It is normally a long narrow glass with a long stem, both about equal in length. A rounded base supports the stem, and the length of the stem is considered desirable because it means you can hold the stem without touching the glass or flute portion. For those who enjoy fine champagne, keeping temperature stable is desirable. Hanging onto the glass part and sipping does affect the temperature of the champagne, producing warmer champagne and fewer bubbles.
Most people who enjoy champagne and other sparkling wines cite both its taste and effervescence as important factors. They therefore may want to invest in a champagne flute that is well manufactured, and not completely smooth on the inside. The narrow bowl at the top of a flute also helps to keep bubbles from escaping.
What the champagne drinker desires is a champagne flute that will produce lots of bubbles, called nucleation. An extremely flat smooth surface on the inside of the glass part will not produce as many bubbles and may therefore be undesirable. Too much rippling of the glass will cause bubbles to form and burst too rapidly. This may be particularly important when you’re serving champagne like Dom Perignon® that can cost over $100 US dollars (USD) per bottle. You obviously want a champagne flute that will keep this expensive drink fizzy.
If you’re a fan of micro-brews or make your own beer, having a glass that produces nucleation may also be desirable. Some people prefer to drink finer beers out of champagne flutes. Again, holding the champagne flute at its stem will not affect beer temperature, and the special surface of the finer champagne glass will keep the beer nice and bubbly.
The champagne flute is also practical in catering and restaurant settings, where waiters are serving trays of champagne to guests. Since the base of the glass is narrow, you can fit more cups on a tray. It does require steady hands to carry a tray filled with champagne flute glasses. They can easily tip or slide and produce regrettable accidents or spills.
When you are choosing a champagne flute, most wine enthusiasts recommend looking for lead-free crystal. Waterford crystal, manufactured in Ireland is often thought the most desirable choice. It can also be very beautiful, and manufacturing assures a certain standard of quality. It will also mean you might pay quite a bit for glasses, sometimes as much as $40-50 US dollars (USD) for a single glass. On the other hand, such a price can be well worth it if you want to enjoy your champagne in the manner recommended by sommeliers.
In banquet or catering settings, it may be fine to use less expensive champagne flutes, or even champagne saucers, which have a much wider bowl. Usually in such settings, champagne is consumed too quickly for it to lose much effervescence. Further saucers tend to be easier to sip from and to carry.