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A biophysicist has tweaked the basic bottle design. 

March 23, 2017

For some reason, wine dripping down the side of the bottle when you pour it has become as  accepted an inevitability as death and taxes (both of which some people probably consider preferable to dripping wine). Wine accessory companies sell products specifically built to address this problem. Even highly-trained sommeliers resort to wrapping a napkin bandana around the bottle’s neck as if that Cabernet Sauvignon is some Wild West outlaw up to no good. But a Brandeis University physicist believes he has solved the problem – and all it took was a two millimeter tweak in the bottle itself.

In looking to solve this issue, Daniel Perlman – a biophysicist at the Massachusetts university – wondered if the bottle might be the cause. According to the school, the modern wine bottle design has been around since the 1800s, meaning it was ripe for innovation – and hopefully an end to 200 years of drips. “I wanted to change the wine bottle itself,” Perlman said. “I didn't want there to be the additional cost or inconvenience of buying an accessory.”

He began by studying slow-motion videos of wine being poured, eventually attributing some of the blame to the fact that glass is hydrophilic, meaning it attracts water. His solution: Build what is essentially a miniature moat between the lip of the bottle and the neck. This small circular groove, only two millimeters in width, is apparently enough to prevent wine from heading towards a pourer’s hand instead of the glass. “For a drop of wine to make it across Perlman's groove, it would have to travel up inside the groove against the force of gravity or have enough momentum to jump from one side of the groove to the other,” BrandeisNOW explains. “After many tests, Perlman found the perfect width, roughly 2 millimeters, and depth, roughly 1 millimeter, for the groove so that the wine stream can't get passed it.”

Perlman reportedly already has over 100 patents to his name, though for wine drinkers, this one might stand as his crowning achievement. However, in fixing the bottle itself, Perlman does create one major hurdle to bringing his solution to the masses: Unlike an accessory, which anyone can purchase, Perlman’s innovation would have to be built-in by bottle manufacturers. This would likely increase basic production costs, not to mention Perlman and his cohorts getting their cut. But innovation has swept through the beverage industry before – remember when not all cans were wide-mouths? – so maybe a drip-free future is within our reach.

“Perlman is currently speaking with bottle manufacturers about adopting his design,” Brandeis writes. So I guess the process is in early enough stages that we can’t say goodbye to those napkin bandanas quite yet.