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The Shape of the Glass?
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed August 30, 2002. For more information go to

I don't usually worry too much about what shape my wine glass is in, as long as it is clean.

I'm talking about its physical shape, of course: For all practical purposes, one standard wine glass - often called a "tulip" because it mimics the form of the spring flower with its large round bowl on a thin stem - works well for all wines. Large enough to allow swirling the wine to enhance its aroma, its inward curving form creates a protected space above the wine to retain the delicate aromas for your sniffer, and the stem offers a way to hold the glass without warming the wine or getting greasy fingerprints on the bowl.

On the other hand, many theorists believe that a wide variety of glass shapes allows the wine lover to select just the right shape to fit the flavor profile of specific wines. Best-known for this approach is the Riedel firm, based in Austria, which offers literally dozens of pricey glasses for every wine from Chianti to older Bordeaux.

A research report this week from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, reported in "New Scientist" magazine, may shed new light on the Riedel theory.

Russell, with the university's Food Science and Technology department, poured a Merlot into three different glasses: A tall, thin Champagne "flute," a wide, shallow Martini glass, and a "Bordeaux" glass, presumably a standard tulip.

She used laboratory equipment to measure the concentration of gallic acid, a phenolic compound, in each glass shortly after pouring. Then she repeated the test 10 to 20 minutes later and found that the concentration of gallic acid had decreased in the Bordeaux glass but not in the other two.

Finally, the professor allowed her students a taste of the wines (using a non-traditional vessel, a laboratory beaker). Only one of them, an older professor, could detect any difference!

"I think with training the glass might make a difference," Russell concluded.

For the full story, visit New Scientist's Online.

Visit Riedel Crystal.


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