Why Do People Swirl Wine?

The reason to swirl wine is very simple: it improves the taste. Honestly, it does. Swirling wine can release the aroma, leading to a richer flavor. 

For some people, swirling wine will have become a habit grown from imitation, accomplished with no clear reason why. For others, swirling a glass of wine will simply be an attempt to indicate sophistication.

And for the rest of us, swirling wine was a brief consideration, abandoned after half the glass splashed out the top. If you’ve never understood the reason behind wine swirling, this guide hope to show you why people insist on swirling a glass of wine:

1.Any bad smells are removed. When a bottle of wine is first opened, it needs a chance to breathe. Otherwise, the scents and even flavors of the sulfurs used in winemaking have a habit of hanging around.

Things like sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide are an essential part of the fermentation process, but they don’t necessarily smell nice. An excess of acidity can also be present in the initial scent of wine.

When the wine is swirled, it’s exposed to oxygen, and these bad things begin to evaporate. With these gone, the drinker is free to experience the rich bouquet the wine has to offer. 

2.Layers of scents are released. Much of how we taste wine occurs through the nose. Although this may sound strange, the receptors in the nose are able to pick out subtle flavorings that the mouth isn’t capable of detecting.

If you haven’t been smelling your wine, you really should! It shouldn’t be a light sniff either, the aromas of the wine have to be absorbed. Swirling releases all the subtle layers that make up a good glass of wine.

As it moves about in the glass it’s aerated, exposed to oxygen which invigorates the molecules making them easier to scent. Having done this, when you drink the wine, you can taste more than just the top notes.

Instead, all the deep layers can come springing to the surface. What at first seemed like a simple wine can gain a richness that was otherwise missing.

3.You can see the “legs”. Much like swirling, the “legs” of a wine are one of those often discussed things few of us really understand. However, it refers to something quite simple: the viscosity.

By swirling the wine, you can see the thickness and movement of the liquid as it’s left behind on the glass. This gives you a good indication of the type of wine you’re about to drink.

The “legs” show the body, movement, alcohol content, even the climate the wine was made in. A cool climate wine tends to have a quicker movement and a lighter body. A wine from a warmer climate has a fuller body, and a slower, heavier movement.

There are many valid reasons behind swirling your wine, besides trying to look good. Start swirling to release the full potential of a bottle of quality wine.

It’s simple to master, and can genuinely improve the wine drinking experience – not that it needs much improvement.

What type of wine should be swirled?

Every type of wine should be swirled, as they can all benefit from slight aeration. Whether white, red, or sparkling, swirling the wine evaporates less than pleasant smells, leaving behind a subtle and layered aroma.

Even other alcohols can benefit from a swirl – whiskey and bourbon in particular. With an initial sniff of whiskey, you may find the nose is overwhelmed by the smell of alcohol. After a swirl, you can find the deeper aromas.

How to swirl wine (without spilling any)

Swirling wine allows the drinker to truly experience the bouquet and aroma of the wine. However, it can be a little tricky to master. No one is impressed by wine thrown out the side of the glass, and no one enjoys losing wine to an overzealous swirl.

Once you’ve mastered the technique, you can impress everyone with just how sophisticated your swirl is. (And impress yourself with the delicate aromas you can now detect.)

  1. The first step in nailing the swirl is in choosing the right wine glass. A big glass is best, as it allows for the wine to move over a greater surface area, exposing it to more oxygen. A larger glass also makes it easier to see the “legs” of the wine as they move across the sides. Choose a glass that tapers towards the rim. This both makes it less likely to spill, and concentrates the aromas.
  2. Only pour a smaller amount, you don’t want to fill the glass. One to two ounces is best. The smaller amount exposes more of the wine to the oxygen, 
  3. For a beginner, place the glass on a table or hard surface. Grasp the stem at the base between the thumb, and forefinger. Use the base of the glass to draw circles on the table. Otherwise, keep the glass on the table, balance the stem at the base between the index and middle fingers, and draw circles. This swirls the wine, and you look like you know what you’re doing. Eventually, you can work up to swirling the glass in the air.
  4. Take a sniff. Immediately after swirling is the best time to smell the wine, as the agitated molecules should be releasing the most aroma.
  5. Take your first sip. The best way to enjoy the wine is to fill the mouth half way, rather than taking a gulp. Move the wine around your mouth, so you can experience the flavor across the tongue. 
  6. Repeat the process. You don’t need to be continually swirling, and it can be bad for the wine to over swirl. However, completing the process a few times allows the full wine profile to come through.

Mastering the swirl isn’t just a way to look good – it’s the best way to enjoy wine. After a few attempts, you should start to understand what sommeliers mean when they refer to “body” and “bouquet”.

Christina Day
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