Why do people swirl wine, anyway?
The answer is slightly more complicated than the obvious one – it’s just to make the drinker look awesome and sophisticated, right? The truth is, giving your wine a quick swirl around the glass has even more benefits than the built-in coolness it brings. Wine is cooped up for a long time inside the bottle and then, suddenly – after months or years in a dark, tight space – it’s poured in your glass (yipee!).
Swirling the long-awaited wine inside your glass lets it breathe, enhancing its natural flavor and releasing enticing aromas. You can swirl your wine whether you’re a newbie to the world of wine or if you’ve been enjoying the stuff for years. No special skills or fancy knowledge required!
If you’re standing: Gently twirl your wine glass in your hand (it’s all in the wrist), sending the wine inside spinning around. If you’re sitting down: hold your glass at the base of the stem and “draw” small, tight circles on the bartop, countertop or table. The effect is satisfying, a bit hypnotic, and a foolproof way to avoid spills.
Swirling literally breathes new life into your wine and the whole wine drinking experience. Here are three reasons (other than looking like a pro) why you should give it a try:
Oxygen Improves the Flavor
Have you ever noticed a glass of wine improving as you drink it? The reason why is that the introduction of oxygen releases undesirable compounds – sulfites and sulfides (a natural byproduct of yeast metabolism) – changing and improving the taste, making the wine more expressive and enjoyable.
A fun, easy way to fold oxygen into your wine, the act of swirling accomplishes the same thing as pouring wine through an aerator or pouring it into a decanter. Along with decanting and aerating, swirling changes the wine-drinking experience: instead of drinking wine that tastes like it was stuck in the bottle for months or years, you’re drinking wine as it was intended for you to experience by the winemaker who crafted it.
Swirling Evaporates Alcohol, Releasing Aroma
The swirling action also helps to evaporate alcohol, which lifts aroma compounds – esters and aldehydes – to your nose, so you can smell the bouquet better. Smelling the wine before taking the first sip is part of the enjoyment of drinking wine. Go ahead! Put your nose right inside the glass and appreciate the unique, complex aroma. Additionally, how well you can smell the wine affects your ability to truly taste it. Ever notice it’s hard to taste your food with a bad head cold? Same idea. So swirling helps us smell the wine, and hence, taste the wine as well.
Swirling to Appreciate the Color and Legs
Sommeliers, the professional wine tasters who create high-end restaurant wine lists, take advantage of the swirling to fully appreciate the color of the wine, take in its bouquet (nose) and study the viscous streaks that form on the inside of the glass (the legs). The bouquet, color and legs tells the wine drinker about the alcohol level, sweetness of the wine, and other character traits, deepening the tasting experience.
The Bottom Line: Swirling Wine Is Practical, Not Pretentious
Many wine lovers swirl their glasses around absent-mindedly as if by instinct. If you’re not an unconscious swirler, we hope we’ve convinced you to become an intentional one. It’s practical, not pretentious and will take your enjoyment of one of life’s greatest pleasures to a whole new level.
The more dense and concentrated the wine, the more it needs to be swirled. But no matter how light your wine might be, if it came from a freshly opened bottle and it’s not sparkling, then it will benefit from some swirling. So swirl away and impress your friends with the reasons why!