Is Swirling the Wine Pretentious?


Originally pinned by Karen Choi onto WIne on Pinterest via wine folly

This cartoon has been making the rounds on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter, which led to a question in my mailbox from Sam: Why do wine people swirl their wine? Isn’t it a bit pretentious?

It brings to mind the old days, when I was working at Robert Mondavi Winery. One day I was walking through the tasting room, absent-mindedly swirling my wine and I got a tap on the shoulder. This guy kind of scowls at me and says “Are you just showing off?”

So, of course, being the geek that I am, I had him smell his wine. Then swirl it for a few seconds (I showed him how to do it without spilling it all over the place.)  And then smell it again. He got it, but he still didn’t like it 😉

Fact is, we drank everything out of wine glasses at Mondavi and I got so I swirled my coffee, my water… Oh, dear!

But I urge you to try the swirl test I just described, Sam. You might be surprised! Incidentally, if you haven’t swirled a glass of wine before, here’s what you do so you don’t end up wearing it (although I wear so much wine on a daily basis, I’ve come to think of it as perfume.) Hope I don’t get pulled over…

Okay. Best if the wine isn’t too cold. Straight out of the fridge and the wine has nothing to say no matter what you do. Cool is okay. Don’t fill the glass more than a generous 1/3 full or you’re guaranteed a wine shower. Pop your nose in the glass and take a good whiff. Should smell good.

Now, set the glass on the table and grip the stem at the base (I like to put my first and second finger on either side of the stem) and just do a gentle, but brisk circular motion to get the wine really moving. Do this for several seconds. Should it smell better? Not necessarily, but it certainly smells MORE! That’s the deal. It’s like getting more bang for your buck. 

What happened? Aromatic compounds that were trapped in the liquid (labspeak is “bound in solution”) were released as vapor. Yippee! More is better!

It makes it so much easier to get a good, general impression of the wine and also to begin noticing specific fragrances that were elusive before. This is a great technique to use for getting the most out of just about any wine but you might want to go easy on the fizzy stuff. Don’t want to swirl the bubbles away!

 Send me your wine question   I’ll get back to you in a jiffy

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