Is it Necessary to Swirl the Wine?


Question from Jess: In your last post you referred to swirling the wine. Is that really necessary? What difference does it make? I feel really silly and pretentious doing it.

Reply: Hi, Jess. Thanks for writing! I don’t know that it’s necessary, but it can certainly add to your pleasure.

You be the judge. Try this experiment: Pour yourself a glass of any sort of wine, preferably not too cold (cold wine doesn’t have much of a fragrance, as we discussed in that last post). Don’t fill it too full. A half-glass is fine. If the wine has been in the fridge, just take it out and wait 30-45 minutes to do the experiment.

Smell the wine. BTW, when you smell the wine, you should actually put your nose in the glass – no long-distance sniffing! Smells good? Now, set the glass down on the table and grip the stem, close to the base. Swirl briskly to get the liquid really moving in the glass. After swirling vigorously for several seconds, smell the wine again. Notice the difference?

More – right? Whatever there was before, there’s more of it now – I like that! Here’s what happens: When you swirl, the aromatic compounds that were trapped in the liquid (lab-speak is “bound in solution”) are released as vapor, so all those lovely fragrances to float right up to your nose. I like to think of it as getting more for my money.

TRIVIA! Have you noticed that wine glasses all have more or less the same shape? The bowl is larger than the opening, right? This, also, is practical. The tapered opening captures those aromatic compounds you released so that when you pop your nose in the glass you get the full impact.

You’ve also learned why it’s not smart to fill your glass more than 1/3 – 1/2 full. I wear wine on a daily basis – I’ve come to think of it as perfume – but most folks prefer not to. And, of course, you don’t want to get the tip of your nose all wet when you put it in the glass.  

If your friends will think you’re pretentious you could splash the wine into a decanter before serving to get a similar effect, but it takes planning ahead. You don’t get the instant gratification that comes with a good swirl.

Someone’s bound to follow up with a question about wine aerators. I’ve done a little very informal research on that and my conclusion is that if you think it works, it works. Otherwise, it’s questionable.  

In know there’s a lot of silly fru-fru associated with wine and it’s hard to sort through what’s practical and what’s pretentious. As you’ve discovered, swirling is actually quite practical. Cheers!

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