Here’s What Really Happens When You Swirl Your Wine

The classic formula for wine tasting is the “five S’s”. To see. Tourbillon. Sniff/smell. Sip. Flavor. Let’s explore the whirlwind.

The whirlpool promotes aeration. When you expose wine to oxygen, the aromatic compounds attach to the alcohol which evaporates and gives you more flavors to experience and enjoy. The majority of tasting pleasure comes from the aroma, not your taste buds, so this element is no small feat.

Oxygen also helps soften harsh tannins, making them smoother and silkier. Swirling is especially beneficial for younger, bolder red wines. In contrast, older wine needs a very gentle swirl or it can become too oxidized and lose its life. One technique does not fit all in the world of wine swirling.

Swirling-induced oxygen can blow off unwanted aromas. Sulfites—naturally present during fermentation or added to stabilize wine—can add a smell of rotten eggs or burnt matches after some bottle aging. Some wines, Burgundian Pinot Noir, for example, can have barnyard smells from the first pour. Do not worry. Swirling will almost always eliminate these problems.

The swirl benefits the “seeing” element of the five S’s. Your wine may appear clearer after a few swirls, allowing you to have a visual experience beyond the “deep ruby”.

This being wine, there is a correct way to swirl. The larger the glass, the more efficient the whirlpool. Keep the base of the glass on the table and start slowly. Don’t overdo it. A few swirls, a minute or less, will do. Continuous stirring is not necessary unless you have a difficult wine with particularly assertive tannins or foul odors. Once swirled at the start of your tasting experience, the wine will continue to breathe and develop on its own in the glass. Then it’s time to indulge the other four Ss.

Tasting notes:

• Primus The Blend, Apalta, Colchagua Valley 2018: Polished, fresh, fruity. Convertible led assembly accompanied by carménère and a frame of other reds. $18-20

• Duca Di Salaparuta Suor Marchesa Passo delle Mule Nero d’Avola 2018: good, affordable and easy-drinking presentation of Sicily‘s most famous black grape variety. $19-25

• Stoneledge Winery & Vineyard Malbec, Texas 2018: A hedonistic delight of ripe dark fruit crawling in your mouth, pleasing your palate. If you want to fight with full-bodied Texas wine, this is your partner. $50

Last round: What do you call a priest who becomes a lawyer? A stepfather. Wine time.

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