Wine’s Perception, the Wine Glass’ Shape & Ethanol’s Evaporation

In a Randomized Control Trial interventional study published in the Journal Appetite, (1) scientists investigated the hypothesis relative to the intricate relationship between “la forme et le fond” (shape and substance), in this case, between the wine glass and the fermented  grape juice. In this perspective, 85 male and 96 female volunteers aged 19-73 years, all healthy, were put to the test.

The experimentation proceeded as follows: 89 subjects received red wine, 92 subjects white wine. Subjects compared three glasses with a white wine and three glasses with a red. Glasses were of different shape but of the same height and of comparable opening diameter. All glasses had elegant stems; two glasses of ‘tulip’ and ‘beaker’ like shapes were used in sessions with red and white wines. Different bulbous glasses were used in either red or white wine sessions.

All of the subjects were blinded whether they received one or more wines. Intensity, hedonic tone, and quality of the wines were rated repeatedly before and after drinking.

The Study’s Conclusion

The ratings of wine odors from different glasses were significantly influenced by glass shape.

These results can be interpreted to come less from the esthetic impression the glasses made on the tasters than on the shape of the glass.

“Ratings of wine odors from different glasses were influenced by glass shape. Importantly, this appeared not to relate to the esthetic impression the glasses made. Thus, the present data indicate that the shape of glasses seems to influence the perception of wine odors“. (Source)

Validation from another peer-reviewed Study

In this second study, healthy volunteers (43 m, 46 f, age 19-60 years) tried 3 glasses. Three glasses of different shape but of the same height and of comparable opening diameter were used. Glasses were of “tulip”-like, “beaker”-like, and “egg”-like shapes. Intensity, hedonic tone, and quality of a red wine were rated before and after drinking

The Study’s Conclusions

The Egg-shaped Glasses prevail

It was shown that both intensity and hedonic ratings of wines from different glasses were influenced by glass shape. Glass shape also influenced the complexity of wine odors.  Again, like in the first Study mentioned above, the wine scientists determined that these results did not appear  to be related to the esthetic impression the glasses made.

“The present data indicate that egg-shaped glasses, compared to “tulip” or “beaker” glasses, appear to produce higher intensity and higher complexity of wine odors. This may relate to the trapping of odors in egg-shaped glasses”. ( 2001 Feb;80(2):96-100)

Discussion

There are many factors that influence wine’s flavor perception. Wine’s polyphenols, glycerol, tannins and among other elements, wine’s relative proportion of water and ethanol. All of these elements significantly influence the perception of wine’s sensory attributes as much as the glass wine’s shape.

In this perspective, a recent study investigated changes in wine ethanol concentration due to evaporation from wine glasses. The wine scientists noted that there was no change in wine glasses that were covered with lids.  But where glasses were not covered, evaporation had a significant impact on wine ethanol content, with losses from 0.9 to 1.9% alcohol by volume observed for wines that received direct exposure to airflow for 2 h.

“Evaporation also resulted in decreases in the concentration of some fermentation volatiles (determined by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry) and a perceptible change in wine aroma. The rate of ethanol loss was strongly influenced by exposure to airflow (i.e., from the laboratory air-conditioning unit), together with certain glass shape and wine parameters; glass headspace in particular”.  2016 Oct 12;64(40):7569-7575.

Tentative Conclusion

In these three studies, wine scientists have been able to show with a decent preponderance of the evidence that both wine glass shape and wine’s ethanol evaporation can impact the sensory experience and perception of wine. All in all, it appears that the best wine glass for most red wines is the curvy bulbeous egg-shaped one that is reproduced below. For champagne and white wines, differently shaped wine glasses would be indicated.

There are many other factors that the Institute’s Wine workshop  and coaching sessions delve into with regard to the heightened sensory perceptions of the wine tasting experience. For those wine drinkers who are inclined toward a holistic drinking approach, please consider scheduling a wine medicine coaching session.

Pr. Joubert

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“O Beloved, upon this river of wine, launch our boat-shaped cup,
And into this river throw those weeping with envy, too.
Winebringer, throw a cask of wine into my boat,
For without that–for forty days and nights on the open sea–
I will die of thirst.
I am lost in this city and can no longer find the Winehouse door.
Please help me to find that street again where Love resides.
Bring me a cup of wine that is dark red and smells like musk.
Don’t bring me that expensive brand that tastes like money
and smells like lust.
Even though I am drunk and worthless, be kind to me,
And on this dark heart shine the light of Your smile.
If it’s sun at midnight that you desire, throw the veil from
The face of the rose, and you will have all the light you need.
If I die, don’t let them bury me in a dusty grave;
Take my corpse to the Winehouse and throw me into a cask of wine!
Hafiz, if you have had enough of this world and all its violence,
Then take up the cup, and from the inside let this liquid love make peace”.
Drunk on the Wine of the Beloved: 100 Poems of Hafiz

REFERENCE NOTE

(1). Hummel T1, Delwiche JF, Schmidt C, Hüttenbrink KB. Effects of the form of glasses on the perception of wine flavors: a study in untrained subjects. Appetite. 2003 Oct;41(2):197-202.  2003 Oct;41(2):197-202.
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Disclaimer: Nothing in this educational blog should be construed as medical or legal opinion

Director of the Medicinal Wine Institute, Pr. Joubert, biogerontologist from France, was trained at the Oenology Institute of Talence-Pessac, next to Bordeaux France, and the Faculty of Law on the same campus. He partially grew up in the Haut Médoc where his father worked for different Chateaux in Margaux and Mouton Rothschild in Pauillac. In order to partially finance conventional Medical School in Paris, Joubert worked as a sommelier and waiter. Since, he has taught law, social sciences and medicine for many years while practicing organic farming. He examines Wine and any aspect of Medicine with the legal eyes of a trained jurist. He is presently living in one of the five Mediterranean climate and wine-rich areas of the world, South California. Pr. Joubert is available to talk to corporate or non profit groups about any of the themes mentioned in the "Talk" section of this Website, including his future "Wine as Medicine" book. Time allowing, he also organizes workshops and accepts coaching sessions.