A long time ago, I decided not to serve wine in a glass that would make me feel badly when it broke. And they all do, sometimes in the most freakish and unexpected ways. I’m not good with special handling either. I like to stash glasses in the dishwasher, and be done with them.
For home use, I own a quantity of easily replaceable generic wine glasses, costing no more than $10 each and shaped approximately like a Burgundy glass, not unlike the ones professional tastings provide. In addition to those, I have champagne flutes because I think they’re beautiful and festive. Now sommeliers are advising that flutes are unnecessary and even detrimental because they obscure aromas that a wider glass would enhance.
But recently I’ve had reason to rethink my choice. A group of Japanese medical professionals at Tokyo Medical and Dental University devised an experiment that documents the importance of glass shape on the taste of wine. The study was interesting and original enough to be reported in Scientific American.
Through an ingenious method, Kohji Mitsubayashi and colleagues filmed ethanol molecules at different temperatures leaving differently shaped wine glasses, a martini glass, and a straight glass. “At 13% C, the alcohol concentration in the centre of the wine glass was lower than around the rim. Wine served at a higher temperature, or from the martini or straight glass, did not exhibit a ring shaped vapor pattern,” reported writer Jennifer Newton. In other words, if ethanol mostly collects around the rim of the glass, we can then perceive the other aromas in the center that make a particular wine distinctive. Otherwise gaseous ethanol can blanket those other aromas in wine.
The article quotes wine scientist Regis Gougeon from the University of Burgundy France. “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 [compatibility]between a glass and a wine.
According to this study, Reidel and other glass makers, who claim that their glass shapes enhance wine flavor, are correct. But I’ll probably remain in my $10 comfort zone.At least breaking a glass will continue to be anon-event without a moment of self-recrimination or a single nasty thought about a friend. And I’ll never have to hand-wash a glass because it’s too valuable for the dishwasher.