Disposable plastic and styrofoam cups are a real convenience when you’re opening up bubbly with friends. They’re easy to clean up, will never leave you with broken glass, and are less of an investment than real Champagne flutes. But before you go out and stock up on the disposables, you should take one thing into consideration: Plastic and styrofoam make your sparkling wine taste worse.
Glass is the only drinking vessel that will allow your bubbs to truly shine, according to a University of Texas at Austin research paper published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. The proof is in the very thing that makes sparkling wine sparkle.
Smaller bubbles generally mean higher quality sparkling wine—if they are smaller there will be more of them in the Champagne, which means more aroma and flavor can be carried up to your nose and tongue. The Texas study was trying to determine whether the quality of a sparkling wine can be determined by the sound of bubbles alone. But what the researchers found has less to do with your ears and more to do with your glassware habits.
“It turns out that the bubble formation process on styrofoam is completely different than on glass,” Kyle Spratt, one of the researchers, said in a statement. “So, if you ever have to resort to drinking Champagne out of a styrofoam cup, the bubbles will be quite different.”
A study in 2009 found that carbonation is tasted by the same tongue receptors that taste sourness. Different bubble sizes affect how your receptors react, changing your perception of the beverage.
What happens with plastic and styrofoam is that the beads of carbonation stick to the side and actually grow. That turns the fine beads of bubbles in your expensive wine (or the already large beads of bubbles in your André) into bigger, less appealing bubbles.
So unless you want your expensive sparkling to taste like cheaper sparkling, go for the glass. Science says so.