Yesterday, I wrote about the wine carafe we purchased in Old Quebec City as a souvenir. Carafes and decanters are used to aerate wine, which is a very controversial topic in the world of wine. Some believe that the wine benefits from aeration, allowing the wine to "breathe". A carafe is meant to work in the same way that swirling wine in your glass does: it triggers the release of a wine's more aromatic compounds and smoothes out the tannins. Other wine experts say aerating wine is detrimental, causing it to oxidize and lose some of its aromatic qualities. But, most agree that transferring heartier red wines into a carafe or decanter does greatly enhance the aesthetic value, particularly if the carafe is one with an elegant design, made of clear glass.
The same controversy exists over whether wine tastes the same in a dollar-store drinking glass versus a crystal wine glass. Reidel, the famous glass makers, fervently insist that their glasses make wine taste better. Many wine experts support their claim. But in a double blind scientific test (where the taste testers did not know which glass was a $20 Reidel and which was priced at just $1), taste testers could not discern any difference in taste.
Here at South 'n France we subscribe to the philosophy that dining should be a pleasurable experience for all of the senses. When Pascal worked at Daniel, I tasted the cuisine as it is intended to enjoyed - served by attentive staff while I was seated in the luxurious restaurant, eating on fine china, listening to great music, and sipping good wine. I also ate the same meal, cooked by the same chefs, while seated in my living room, watching a movie in my pajamas. Believe me; the food did not "taste" the same.
To what extent does ambiance affect the taste of food? We think it matters a lot. But, then again, beauty, taste, and aesthetics are all subjective. Even though this carafe by French sculptor Etienne Meneau costs 2200 Euros, we can't imagine that it makes wine taste that much better (And, how pray tell, do you clean it?). Likewise, although we admire the originality of these custom-made glasses inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins, they don't look very user-friendly. We think we'll stick with our traditional wine glasses and carafes.