The Ancient Science behind a Perfect Glass of Wine

by | Aug 5, 2021 | Articles, Just for Fun

The best way to enjoy a glass of wine is to fill your balloon shaped glass to the widest point, but no more. Doing this provides space in the glass for the wine to breathe, releasing its aromas and allowing you to enjoy the heady scent when you dive in nose-first for a sip. Secondly, it prevents you from spilling it everywhere.

So, how do you guarantee that your glass will always be filled to the perfect point? Use a Pythagorean Cup.

The Pythagorean Cup was invented by Pythagoras of Samos, the ancient Ionian Greek philosopher and mathematician whose greatest hits include the Pythagorean Theorem (a2 + b2 = c2), and the concept of a spherical Earth. The story goes that he invented the cup to prevent his greedier students from drinking his cellar dry, and probably to prevent them from getting pie-eyed and missing their morning lectures too!

So, how does the cup work? I hear you ask.

Like the S-bend of a water-flush toilet, we answer. Except instead of keeping the pungent scents of the sewer out, this mechanism uses fluid dynamics to keep the nose of a good wine in. A Pythagorean Cup looks like a normal drinking cup from the outside, but with a hollowed out column in the middle of it containing an inverted “U” shaped tube that leads from the bottom of the cup to the base (Diagram A).

When liquid is poured into the cup, it starts to fill up one half of the tube (Diagram B). Provided the liquid stays below the lip of the tube, the cup remains full, and you can drink away without fear.

However, as soon as the liquid goes above the lip (Diagram C) gravity and hydraulic pressure create something known in plumbing as an auto-siphon that draws the entire contents of the cup through the “U” shaped tube and out of a hole in the bottom, either onto the floor or down the unsuspecting victim’s front (Diagram D)

By © Nevit Dilmen, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By using a Pythagorean Cup therefore, you will always guarantee that your glass is filled to the perfect level as otherwise… well, you create a huge mess.


SMALL PRINT: Always test your Pythagorean Cup in someone else’s home first.