It’s been the view of people in the wine industry – and not just the glassmakers themselves – that the glass you use plays an important role in delivering the full potential of a wine. Some say it’s like the difference between listening to music in mono or stereo or, more poetically (and almost certainly less politically correct), the difference between a slap in the face or a pat on the bottom.
Some express the view that a ‘universal’ glass can hide the aromatic potential of a wine – and so taste and flavour perception.
Now research shows that the shape of the wine glass you use really does affect the way the wine in the glass actually tastes.
It’s all a question of physics (whereas the effect of colour on taste relates to psychology).
The research involved pouring a range of wines into different glasses at different temperatures where it was found that different glass shapes and temperatures can bring out completely different bouquets and finishes from the same wine.
It’s to do with the flavour enhancing effects of ethanol, or alcohol, and how glass geometry can be shown to affect wine flavour perception.
The explanation: the sides of a glass specifically designed for wine (normally) bow inward towards the rim. This in turn tends to concentrate the alcohol aromas around the rim, so when our nose is placed towards the centre of the glass when savouring the wine’s aromas, the harshness of any gaseous alcohol is reduced, so making wine the aromas more distinct
Temperature also affects wine aromas and how they rise in the glass, but the strongest correlation can be seen to be in terms of the ratio between the diameter of the widest part of a glass to the diameter of the opening itself.
However, one mustn’t forget the environment – the occasion itself – when it comes to the drinking experience: it’s certainly not that rare to be disappointed that the ‘wonderful-wine-we-drank-at-that-fantastic-dinner’… doesn’t quite taste the same on a wet Tuesday winter afternoon and no amount of learned science can fully explain that!
Red Wine Glasses
It’s the larger bowl size that helps the wine release its aromatics into the air, whilst the tapered top channels the aromas to your nose. The longer stems also let you swirl the wine in your glass more readily to release the wine’s aromas.
White Wine Glasses
Whites don’t tend to need as much space to become aromatic, indeed they actually have the potential to lose their aroma if given too much aeration.
Sparkling Wine Glasses
Coupe: the wide rim makes the sparkle disappear quickly and should really only be used for sweet, fruity sparkling wines that don’t rely on their bubbles for flavour.
Flute: this shape preserves a sparkler’s bubbles best, with the trade-off that the wine will be able to breathe less than a glass with a large bowl.
Tulip: the wider bowl releases more aromatics, so is recommended for the fruity notes of fine, vintage champagnes as the wider bowl helps release more aromatics.
Putting aside the science, the real fun (and potential for reward) is in experimentation – and enjoying the experience!