It's official - wine really does taste better out of the right glass.

Researchers at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville have shown that drinking red wine out of a Bordeaux glass is the best way to appreciate its quality. Using a Champagne flute or a Martini glass could mean you’re missing out.

By measuring the level of gallic acid in red wine, researchers were able to show that not only does the shape and size of a glass alter the chemical make-up of red wine but also experienced drinkers can taste the difference that makes.

Gallic acid levels, which are the accepted way to record a wine’s tannin content, are six times higher in red wine than white. With exposure to air, the acid is converted into special types of ester which help give red wine a pleasantly dry and mellow mouthfeel. Unconverted gallic acid in too high a concentration makes a wine taste tart and sharp.

Scientists measured the amount of gallic acid present in Merlot wine that had been poured into three different glasses – a flute, a Martini glass and a classic Bordeaux glass.

In all three, the level of gallic acid increased shortly after pouring, as newly exposed tannins reacted with oxygen. Ten to 20 minutes later, however, only the Bordeaux glass registered less gallic acid, while its level of esters had gone up.

Scientists believe the greater surface area of the wine exposed to air in the Bordeaux glass is the reason for the difference.

The wine was then transferred to laboratory beakers and served to a group of students and professors. The wine connoisseurs among them consistently favoured the wine that had been poured into the Bordeaux glass. ‘I think with training, the glass might make a difference,’ head of research Kari Russell said.

The findings have pleased reputable wine glass maker Georg Ridel. ‘The shape of our glasses is determined through tasting, and we have proved time and time again that wines taste very different when tasted in different glasses. It is great that independent scientific research supports our philosophy,’ he said.

The full findings of the research are reported in this week’s New Scientist

Written by Liz Hughes29 August 2002