Wine Tasting Tips to Make it Look Like you Know What You’re Doing, Part 2: The Wine Swirl
Hello my wine newbies! How are you doing out there? A few months ago, I started this series with Part 1, which included a few wine tasting etiquette tips, how to take tasting notes, and how to properly hold a wine glass. I hope you’ve been able to put some of those tips in practice while you’re out wine tasting, at a restaurant, or even at home.
The next step in making it look like you know what you’re doing (even when you have no idea) is mastering the wine swirl. What purpose does the wine swirl serve? How to swirl? When to swirl? We’ll get into all those details below and you’ll be a wine swirling expert in no time.
What does swirling do?
Swirling wine in your glass introduces oxygen into the wine, otherwise known as aeration. Aeration allows the wine to release aromas that hang out in the glass and contribute to what you smell and taste in the wine. Aeration enhances the most desirable aromas in the wine and allows the wine to show it’s true self!
Aeration also helps rid the wine of any compounds that can contribute to a foul smell. Have you ever opened a bottle of wine that smelled like sulfur or rubbing alcohol? This doesn’t necessarily mean the wine is bad, those compounds just need an opportunity to leave. Swirling speeds along this process.
How to swirl
When it comes to swirling, don’t be too aggressive. You don’t want to swirl the wine out of the glass! If you’re new to swirling, your best bet is to place your glass on the table, hold the glass by the stem or base, and draw imaginary circles on the table with your hand. You can experiment with the size of the circles, the pace at which you draw them, and the direction of the swirl (clockwise or counter clockwise).
Once you feel comfortable swirling on the table, you can graduate to holding the glass while you swirl. Draw imaginary circles on an imaginary horizontal surface, or even make small circles with your wrist.
When to swirl
There’s not necessarily a right or a wrong time to swirl. When I’m wine tasting, I will smell the wine right when it’s poured before I swirl it, then will give it a good swirl and smell again. I swirl and smell often throughout tasting to get a sense of how the wine changes as it gets more oxygen.
If a wine has been decanted or aerated already, swirling isn’t necessary. However, there’s nothing wrong with giving it a swirl anyway, especially if you like to swirl like I do!
It’s important to note: swirling is easier in a larger glass with less wine (think tasting pour vs. full glass of wine). If you have a small wine glass with lots of wine in it, you may not be able to swirl without spilling! In this case, just skip the swirl and let the wine hang out for a bit to introduce more oxygen.
Now, get to a tasting room or pour yourself a glass and give your new wine swirl skills a try!