Just Somme Stuff I Think About: Why do we swirl wine?
Everyone does it – people at restaurants, wine bars, tasting rooms -even the Sommelier at that fancy restaurant does it.
We all know it makes you look like you know what you are doing, a clear cry of, “no newbie here!”
But swirling wine is not just a way to look important; the action of swirling a wine in the glass does several things.
- First off, the non-obvious: swirling the wine in the glass enables some evaporation to take place and the more volatile compounds will dissipate; these include sulfides (matchsticks), sulfites, (rotten eggs) or even some rubbing alcohol smells.
- Second, it allows the wine to breathe. Swirling allows oxygen to attach itself to the compounds that make up tannins, and rounds them out, giving them a softer nature; this is also why a young wine should be decanted or run through an aerator: Oxygen helps it open up!
- Third and most important, the swirling of the wine glass activates esters and aromatizes them, which allows you to smell more of the wine, and thus enjoy it more! This is why having a tulip shape glass helps – it concentrates those aromas up to your nose.
But of course, the most important thing to know when swirling wine is to look good while doing it. Make sure you practice at home and when you get to the restaurant you will look like the ultimate pro!
The 2 best ways to look like a pro:
The Professor: Hold by stem with base firmly situated on a flat surface and give it a swift swirl for 4-5 seconds, then breathe intensely while using the phrase “that will do” repeatedly with a seriously academic look on your face. (bonus points for glasses near the bridge of your nose)
The Sommelier: Hold by base with thumb and forefinger lean ever so slightly so that the wine spreads out toward the rim; evaluate the color while making non-verbal low volume grunts of approval or consternation. Bring the wine up and in front of your face change grip to thumb and forefinger around the stem, and swirl counterclockwise for at least 10 seconds. Then breathe in audibly, and say the phrase, “ok, you can pour it,” but pretending that you are doing the server a favor by not sending it back.
All kidding aside, swirling is a good thing and helps you enjoy a great glass of wine!