Do glass shapes influence taste?
The more dedicated wine glass manufacturers think so. That’s why they talk to wine makers and oenologists before bringing out a new design. But it’s something you can easily prove for yourself.
Take out as many different glasses as you can lay your hands on. Tumblers, tulips, goblets, flutes, sherry, liquor; it doesn’t really matter other than to get four or five radically different shapes for comparison. Then pour the same wine into each. Give them a good swirl. Now sip away and you’ll think you are tasting and smelling four or five assorted wines!
So if different glass shapes affect the smell and taste of the same wine, should we have a dedicated glass shape for each and every varietal? At least one glass supplier, Riedel, advocates something along these lines, marketing an array of different glasses at extravagant prices for just about every wine variety you can think of. That’s probably OTT and you’ll certainly pay an arm and a leg for the privilege of flaunting the Riedel brand, quite apart from the daunting prospect of where exactly you are supposed to store all these different shapes and sizes.
Don’t get me wrong. The right shaped glassware can showcase the nuances of wine, especially in a variety as subtle as, say, Pinot Noir. But while it may be a lot of fun to have a huge bowled Merlot glass, another for Cabernet Sauvignon and a third for Gamey, what ‘s the best glass for say Chianti, which can be a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo and maybe even Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon grapes?
Faced with just this dilemma the 1,500 strong L’Union des Oenologues de France (the trade union for Sommeliers in France) set out to create just three glass shapes, one for red, one for white and a third for sparkling wines, that would maximise the enjoyment of aroma and flavour across all the varietals.
As you will discover from your own glass test, open necked glasses like tumblers or tulip shapes with a flared rim wider than the bowl, produce the worst results. These sort of shapes allow the richness of the aromas to escape too quickly, flattening out the best of vintages. You need stems too, especially for white wines – nothing warms a wine faster than a hot clammy hand clasped around the bowl! Rims also should be lip friendly, rounded and well formed.
It was just these sort of practical considerations that the French Sommeliers brought to the task. Working with a respected glass designer, they created a range of just 3 shapes for pretty well every type of wine you can think of. Launched at their annual Vinalies wine competition, the glasses were an instant success. They passed the experts’ taste tests with flying colours and because the prices were realistic and the quality as good as any, they’ve found favour in the restaurant trade right across France.
Do glass shapes affect wine taste? Undoubtedly. But you don’t have to spend a fortune to buy well made, well researched glasses that will truly enhance your enjoyment and pleasure of wine.
Editor’s note: Although conceived for use in French restaurants, you can buy these excellent glasses exclusively in the UK at virtual “trade“ prices from this website. To purchase these great, versatile wine glasses follow this link.
Last Updated: April 20, 2012