Do Wine Glasses Really Matter? Science Provides a Surprising Answer

First, you can relax – this blog is not going to suggest you go out and buy 50 different types of glasses to perfectly match glass to varietal. You don’t need a cabinet full of different stemware to enjoy wine. But, at a minimum, you do need one well designed wine glass with an opening which is wide enough for you to get a good inhale before you take a sip to get the most from your wines.  

Why? Well, 80 percent of what we taste doesn’t happen because of our tongues but because of our noses. Our brains interpret the aromas we smell when we eat or drink as taste. Try holding your nose next time you eat, and you will find you lose a lot of the nuances of taste. The same is true for wine: If you can’t smell the wine you’re drinking, you won’t be able to really taste it. Wine glasses further enhance this by giving you enough room to swirl the wine to bring in oxygen which helps bring out even more aroma.  

But … is this science? Absolutely 

Recently, Japanese scientists at the Tokyo Medical and Dental University developed a ‘sniffer camera’ which can image and map ethanol vapour escaping from a wine glass.  Hypothesising that different glass shapes and temperatures would bring out different bouquets and finishes from the same wine, the research team analysed different wines, in different glasses – including different shaped wine glasses – at different temperatures. They found that wine glasses distributed alcohol as a ring around the glass. But, in other glass types the alcohol concentrated in the centre. ‘This ring phenomenon allows us to enjoy the wine aroma without interference of gaseous ethanol. Accordingly, wine glass shape has a very sophisticated functional design for tasting and enjoying wine,’ they concluded. 

Wine scientist Régis Gougeon, from the University of Burgundy, France, said about the results, ‘Bearing in mind the flavour enhancer properties of ethanol, this work provides an unprecedented image of the claimed impact of glass geometry on the overall complex wine flavour perception, thus validating the search for optimum adequation between a glass and a wine.’ 

Soon this type of imaging could help indicate the best wine glass and precise temperature to serve a certain wine. 

So, next time a hip bar tries to serve you wine in a washed-out Vegemite or jam jar, shut that insanity down and demand a proper wine glass.