When evaluating the taste of wine, the experience is largely subjective. What appeals to one palate may be unpleasant to another, and that’s what makes tasting and enjoying wine endlessly interesting. But when it comes to trying to understand the science of taste, and whether or not the shape of a wine glass plays a role, experts at the Institute of Biomaterials and Bioengineering at Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU), recently weighed in on the matter.
In a recent study, TMDU Professor Kohji Mitsubayashi and his team used an imaging device called a sniff-cam to map out the distribution of ethanol vaporizing from differently-shaped glasses. To conduct their tests, the team used a standard wine glass, a straight glass and a cocktail glass. They discovered that when the same amount of wine was poured into each of these glasses and examined at a temperature of 13 degrees Celsius, a ring-shaped vapor pattern appeared at the edges of the wine glass.
According to Mitsubayashi, this ring-shaped pattern allows drinkers to appreciate the wine, without any interference from the smell of ethanol (which he likens to the smell of vodka). In the other two glasses–the straight and the cocktail–higher intensities of ethanol vapor were captured by the sniff cam.
“The shape of the wine glass has a very sophisticated and functional design for tasting and enjoying the aroma of the wine,” the report concludes. As suspected, a wine glass truly does impact how we experience wine.
What the study did not prove however was whether different glasses designed specifically for certain wines allow someone to better appreciate that wine. For example, does Bordeaux poured into a Bordeaux glass give the drinker a better experience than if that Bordeaux were served in a Pinot Noir or white wine glass?
As we reported previously a 2002 study tried to determine if there was any discernible difference, and what was found was that for the most part, the wine glass the wine was in made very little difference at all. What does seem to make a difference however is that the wine was in a wine glass in the first place.