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Could a new glass actually improve the taste of your wine?

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After breaking some five-year-old wine glasses, I replaced them with a similar set by the same brand. The wine looks and tastes better. Is this just my imagination?
B.M., Tarneit, Vic

Credit:Simon Letch

A: It’s impossible to answer your question without properly comparing the old and new glasses, which would mean having them side by side. Unfortunately, that’s not possible since you’ve gone and smashed them all!

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However, it’s perfectly believable that a newer production of a popular glass shape could give you a different experience of a wine. It’s unlikely there has been a significant change in the shape, but it is possible that the new glasses feature slight modifications that are too subtle to notice.

It’s certainly a mysterious business. The size and shape of the bowl, even the length of the stem, can make a perceptible difference to the aroma and taste of wine.

Aroma differences are relatively easy to detect. Just pour the same wine into several different glasses, sniff each in turn and compare the bouquets. There’s a difference. Throw in a clean Vegemite jar if you want to make the difference really obvious.

Taste differences are less easy to perceive. The length of the stem and the width and shape of the opening of the bowl determine where the wine first hits your tongue, and that makes a difference to your perception of it.

A wide bowl ensures the wine is distributed more widely over the palate; a narrow opening directs the wine in a tighter, narrower stream.

Austrian glass-maker Georg Riedel has developed a thriving business creating a different wine glass for every popular grape variety and wine style. He jets into wine regions all around the world and sets up tastings where a panel of local winemakers and other experts get together to cross-taste several examples of the wine in question from a range of Riedel glasses, both commercial and prototypes. The aim, ultimately, is to settle on a “regional glass shape”, sometimes by designing a new one. I witnessed this when he came to Rutherglen several years ago to choose a regional Rutherglen muscat glass.

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