The Shape of a Wine Glass Really Does Matter!

We told you so. The Ideal Wine Company has stumbled on a study which proves (until the next study), that the shape of a wine glass really does matter!

Drink certain wines from certain glasses

Any wine enthusiast will stumble over themselves to tell you that drinking wine is an art. There are certain rules that one must follow if they want to make the most of their favourite tipple.

One concrete rule is that certain wines must be served in certain glasses. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you serve champagne in anything other than a flute; you’ve committed a crime against nature if you sup red wine from anything other than wide-brimmed glass, that kind of thing. When you say this to most people, they give you this look, like they think you’re crazy or something.

How does ethanol vapour escape the glass?

Well the joke’s on them. The Daily Mail has reported that wines taste better when they’re drunk from certain glasses because the shape of a glass affects the way wine smells.

A group of scientists at the Tokyo Medical and Dental University in Japan recently proved how the smell of a wine changes as its ethanol vapour rises up and out of the glass. They set up a camera system to capture how the ethanol leaves a wine glass. To set up the system they:

  • Covered a mesh with alcohol oxidase, an enzyme which changes low molecular weight alcohols and oxygen into hydrogen peroxide and aldehydes.


  • Infused the mesh with luminol and horseradish peroxide. Together these change colour when they’re exposed to hydrogen peroxide.


  • Put the mesh on top of a wine glass. The camera was then used to capture and digitally map the colour of the wine and the concentration distribution of ethanol leaving the glass.

The ‘ring phenomenon’

The researchers explained in a paper published by the journal ‘Analyst’ that “we selected three types of glasses – a wine glass, a cocktail glass, and a straight glass – to determine the differences in ethanol emission caused by the shape effects of the glass” at various temperatures.

When they did this at 13°C, they found that there was a higher alcohol concentration at the rim of a traditional wine glass than at the centre. This wasn’t the case for the other two glasses, or when they raised the temperature.

Tokyo Medical and Dental University’s Kohji Mitsubayashi commented to Chemistry World that “this ring phenomenon allows us to enjoy the wine aroma without interference of gaseous ethanol.” He went on to explain that “accordingly, wine glass shape has a very sophisticated functional design for tasting and enjoying wine.”

The ethanol filter

Basically this study proved that a good wine glass acts as a filter. It takes away the ethanol so you can enjoy the decadent smell and taste of your favourite vintage. By no means is this conclusive evidence, but it does lend credence to the theory that you need to drink a certain wine from a certain glass if you want to get the most from your luxury tipple!

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