Now that you are finished with your visual inspection of the wine, it is time to release the aroma (also known as ‘bouquet’ or ‘nose’) of the wine through the highly technical process of swirling. This will give the wine some air and allow it to ‘breathe’, thus causing it to emit more a stronger fragrance.
If you are new to swirling wine, it is best to try it on a level surface first. Simply place your glass on the nearest table or countertop, hold on comfortably, and swirl in a circular motion. This should create a small ‘vortex’ or ‘whirlpool’ in the glass. After a few times, you should be able to swirl wine without the aid of a level surface, but it’s best to play on the safe side if you are not used to swirling. Otherwise, you might end up wearing your wine instead of drinking it; not exactly the classiest move at a wine-tasting event.
After swirling, you will notice that the wine doesn’t immediately slip back into the glass and level off. There are often rivulets clinging to the side; these are termed the ‘legs’ or ‘tears’ of the wine, and are often taken as an indication of the alcohol level. Simply put, the slower the ‘legs’ drip back down the side of the wine, the higher the viscosity and alcohol level. However, the alcohol level won’t typically mean much until you actually taste the wine and determine if its’ balance is suited to your tastes. It will be apparent if there is too much alcohol in a wine, as your own nose will feel somewhat like a hot porcupine exploded inside of it.
Swirling your glass of wine adds a unique sensory experience to your wine-tasting event. The sense of smell is an integral part of enjoying food and drink - it tells us what is appetizing and what is not; what we find intriguing, and what we find repelling. Therefore, integrating scent into the overall experience of wine-tasting is crucial for comparing and describing the characteristics of any given wine.
Swirling is also an essential part of wine-tasting because it distributes air throughout the wine, significantly impacting its’ taste. If you are skeptical about the necessity of swirling, just try a glass of wine without swirling it first. Believe us…you’ll never again doubt the power of the swirl.