The wine glass has become an essential accessory in the art of tableware and oenology alike, with its intrinsic qualities able to intensify both the tasting experience and pleasure. Over the last 30 years, French brand Lehmann has reached its full potential by creating innovative and refined shapes that enhance wine and champagne in particular. 

The champagne sets in motion a circular dance… One spin, two spins, maybe three… The effervescence is going a little haywire… It breathes… After one smooth and decisive gesture from the hand that has initiated this graceful ballet, the nose approaches and collects the releasing aromas. Then the mouth brushes the rim, the head tilts ever so slightly backwards… This is it; the taster and the wine get to know each other on a more intimate basis. The glass has been the active instrument in this encounter. It is the glass that has established the initial contact and created the best possible conditions on both sides: its line, transparency and finesse have honed the taster’s sensorial sensitivity, while its very carefully designed structure has allowed the wine to fully express itself. 

The importance of detail

As a faithful servant, a glass should possess all the qualities that mark the difference between drinking and tasting. Adorning the glass with all these qualities – aesthetic, technical, functional – is something that the Lehmann house has done on a consistent basis since the brand was established in the Champagne region 30 years ago, when it made wine-tasting glasses its speciality. An intelligent and complex object made for coming together with the wine: highlighting it, showcasing it and paying tribute to it. Every single detail in its design is important: the crystalline’s transparency, the stem’s length, the paraison’s diameter and the narrowing chimney to concentrate and preserve the aromas… All these aspects combine to achieve just the right balance. To support and refine its approach, very early on in its creative process Lehmann chose to bring in recognised experts from the realm of wine and gastronomy. 

Lehmann Glass collections designed by renowned ambassadors

Lehmann created its first collection, Signature – a range of glasses of varying shapes and sizes – with Gérard Basset, a leading figure in the sommelier business and named the World’s Best Sommelier on multiple occasions. This experience was then repeated with Philippe Jamesse, former head sommelier at the Domaine Les Crayeres in Reims; followed by Arnaud Lallement, triple-starred chef of L’Assiette Champenoise, and finally Fabrice Sommier, the so-called sommelier meilleur ouvrier de France or ‘best sommelier craftsman in France’ – each with their own individual take on the project and each bringing their own history, style and acquired practical knowledge. This has resulted in four very nuanced collections, adapted to tasting wines in all their diversity

The Ultralight glass revolution

In keeping with these prestigious and fruitful collaborations, Lehmann has continued on its path towards excellence. After two years of research and development, in March 2021 the brand launched Ultralight, an innovative process that further pushes the limits of finesse and lightness. “Ultralight reduces around 30% of the glass’s thickness and 30% of its weight in comparison to standard mouth-blown or machine-blown versions,”explains Clémence Roche, marketing manager. It allows the wine to rotate in the paraison more easily, more smoothly and with better control. The extreme finesse of its rim makes you forget there is a glass in your mouth. It embodies the Lehmann promise perfectly: to enhance tasting moments.” 

Tasting glasses inspired by the DNA of Comtes de Champagne

Through its geographic proximity and high-end positioning, Lehmann maintains strong connections with the champagne world. Thanks to their excellent oenological performance and elegance, its glasses pair perfectly with this wine, reflecting its values and optimising the interaction between the bubbles. Placing confidence in this local maker, Maison Taittinger asked the brand to create an iconic glass worthy of its ‘Comtes de Champagne’ cuvee in late 2020. Headed by Alexis Franzin, key account and development manager, the team of designers and marketeers went into project mode. “We started with a blank page,” says Clémence Roche, “and we proceeded step by step to try to recreate both the DNA of the Taittinger brand and the DNA of its prestige cuvee at the same time.”

A champagne flute to highlight Chardonnay

Maison Taittinger was given the opportunity to take part in a workshop, which consisted of testing and rating six glasses from Lehmann collections according to various criteria: aesthetic approach (empty glass and full glass), bubble behaviour, olfactory approach and gustatory approach. Glass no. 4 from the Arnaud Lallement collection – one of the company’s bestsellers – came out on top in this scenario, mainly due to its organoleptic qualities. “It makes sense because the glass was created to showcase Chardonnay base wines, which is the case for Comtes de Champagne.” Starting from this base, the team redesigned the silhouette of the glass to give it a stronger identity, to make it more majestic and to meet the customer’s paradoxical expectations. 

Finding a compromise

“It was a real challenge,” admits Matthieu Bouatta, Lehmann’s managing director, “because within the Taittinger management team, there were two trains of thought: one was defending the champagne tradition and wanted to keep the feel of a flute, while the other was pushing for innovation and lent towards more of a wine glass shape, more in keeping with the times. We had to find the best possible compromise.” This millimetric work resulted in four new profiles, printed in 3D. The two most impressive were produced in mouth-blown Ultralight in a partner factory, with both profiles put to the ultimate test of tasting under real-life conditions. Only one passed: a very slender and elegant glass with a large capacity (40 cl) and a deep pique* in the base that helps encourage the release of the effervescence.

Technical feat

This glass, in which Comtes de Champagne unveils its full aromatic complexity, represents a huge step forward for Lehmann: the first custom project designed A to Z for a client’s account, the first time a stem has reached such a height (255 mm) and the first model of the new generation of Ultralight. In May 2022 a new technical prowess has further enhanced the house’s image: the translation of its mouth-blown Ultralight into machine-blown Ultralight with a very similar final result, particularly in terms of the pique, which is the signature characteristic of a champagne glass – as well as the trickiest part to get right.

Tasting glasses of excellence

“It’s a brilliant and encouraging result,” responds Matthieu Bouatta. “Considering that the trade of master glassmaker is particularly challenging and that you need six of these craftsmen to create a single glass, mouth-blown will eventually become a niche product. In view of these developments, we believe Ultralight is the right solution. This innovative technology has already catapulted awareness of the company. We are really focusing on its mechanical version for the future.” Following in the footsteps of champagne which, with its prestigious cuvees and vintages, has pushed the market into high end, glassware is also becoming more premium under the direction of creators like Lehmann who have set their sights on the very top. 

*Sort of V between the stem and the bottom of the paraison that helps effervescence

Text : Catherine Rivière
Photos : Michaël Boudot