It’s All in the Glass!



I visited a friend recently and, not surprisingly, before long he offered me some wine – but not one glass, he handed me two – and, of course, without giving me any hints as to what I might be tasting.  It was clear I was expected to comment; I present him with similar challenges on occasions. 

But why 2 glasses?  There must be some connection.  I tasted both and, sure enough, there was a lot in common between them, but one was clearly softer and richer, whereas the other was more linear and tannic.  I started thinking out loud as a way of ‘fishing’ for clues: “Both from the same region?” “Yes”.  “Bordeaux?”  “Yes”.  “Same Appellation?”  “Yes”.  I was doing well so far; if the 2 wines were from the same area, then they must either come from 2 different, but close by, estates or they were from the same estate but from different years.  I talked myself into the 2nd of the options – the softer, richer wine was obviously from a warmer, riper year while the more tannic was younger, needed time or was perhaps from a less good year.

My friend smiled and shook his head.  “Look at the glasses”.  Yes, the 2 wines were in slightly different shaped glasses, but I had assumed that was simply a way of distinguishing one from the other.  “It’s the same wine” said my friend producing the bottle: a nice Cru Bourgeois from the Medoc.  I was astonished.

My friend had been to a tasting organised by Riedel glassware some time previously and had been caught by the same ‘trick’.  I knew about their range of glasses – different shapes for different styles of wine, but had always thought it was simply a way to sell more glasses!  It seems not!  Each glass is designed to deliver the wine into your mouth in such a way as to trigger the best taste buds for the style; use the wrong glass and you miss the best sensations.

I tried a similar experiment at home – not using Riedel glasses, just 2 slightly different shapes – and got a similar result: the glass on the left in the picture (from Dartington Glass in Devon) gave my chosen wine a much fruiter, fresher taste than the other.

Try the same test yourself (any glasses will do so long as they are different shapes) and, next time you entertain a wine loving friend, why not test them too?


About Bristol Wine Blog

Bristol Wine Blog is written by Ian Abrahams, a freelance Wine Educator, trading as Wine Talks and Tastings. Ian holds the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Diploma, a high level professional qualification, and is a certified tutor for WSET. He runs courses for both professional and amateur wine lovers in and around Bristol including at Stoke Lodge (see the Bristol Adult Learning Service brochure or online at You don’t have to be an expert or wine buff to enjoy Ian's courses, so long as you enjoy a glass of wine. Find him also on

3 responses »

  1. Thank you for this, it’s an astonishing result but a known phenomenon … nothing to do with the wine, but rather down to Neuroscience. Have you read the book?

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