Don’t Fuss Over Swirling Wine
Swirling wine in a glass can send a wine through many personality changes. The additional exposure to
oxygen from swirling aerates wine by increasing the surface area, releasing and volatilizing more aromatic
esters, ethers and aldehydes, and intensifying the nose. I find that swirling often brings out more oak character,
if present, in a Pinot Noir. In addition, swirling a wine allows oxygen to react with tannins in the wine to allow
the wine to mellow.
There is a proper technique for swirling wine that should be practiced. Hold the wine glass by the stem (never
the bowl) between your fingers and thumb, tilt the glass slightly, and gently swirl the wine counterclockwise at
the wrist if you are right-handed. Avoid being too vigorous, as wine will inevitably slosh over the sides of the
glass: an embarrassing situation. Beginners often swirl wine with the glass placed on a table, since this is
easier and equally effective.
It does not matter which way you swirl wine, although a French fable claims that when you swirl wine
clockwise, the wine will release fruit aromas, and when you swirl wine counterclockwise, earthy scents will fill
the glass. I tested this BS myself and found no aromatic difference concerning the direction of swirling with the
same wine. Also, the French believe that rotating wine counterclockwise is bad luck.
Never swirl sparkling wine or Champagne as it will dissipate the bubbles and the wine will quickly go flat.
One of the drawbacks of learning to properly swirl, is that once you have mastered the technique, you will find
yourself swirling everything, leading to stares from others as you happily swirl glasses of tap water.