To swirl or not to swirl

Swirling turns up the volume. (Photo: De Bortoli Wines)

Swirling: is it just pretentiousness, or is it backed up by physics?

Some physicists have spent considerable time and brain energy exploring the various ways one can swirl a glass of wine, in an effort to discern which methods work best.

For me, the main reason to swirl wine is to increase the surface area from which wine evaporates.

Do you go clockwise or counter; do you use a smooth wavy motion or jerky short bursts? Does anyone care?

A link to an article on this topic by Jennifer Ouellette in Ars Technica magazine is here.

I think they’re missing the point.

For me, the main reason to swirl wine is to increase the surface area from which wine evaporates. I’m no physicist, but it seems to me that we smell wine (or anything else) because its aroma molecules evaporate into the atmosphere, enabling our olfactory senses to detect them. It makes sense that the larger the surface area of wine, the more is evaporated and the more our noses can pick up.

A glass of wine lying undisturbed has a relatively small surface area. But pick it up and swirl it carefully, in a controlled way, and you can coat the entire interior surface with wine, increasing the area from which aroma molecules evaporate, thus amplifying the voice of the wine – so to speak.

Swirling turns up the volume.

The bigger the glass, the more potential for a voluminous bouquet. And it’s best to have a modest amount of wine in a large glass, because it’s the empty space that acts as the amplifier. You’ll get more aroma from a big glass that’s only 10-20% filled than the same glass 50-60% filled.

Rule No. 1 is that if you’re a beginner at swirling, practice in the privacy of your own home. Murphy’s Law states that if you’re at a dinner table next to a woman wearing a snow-white zillion-dollar Versace dress, and the wine in your glass is brilliant purple, and you swirl, the two will develop a magnetic attraction.

One thought on “To swirl or not to swirl”

  1. kg@matilda.net.au says:

    And you will further amplify the aroma if you place a ‘watch glass’ over the top of your wine- glass – that also has the added benefit of preventing the ingress of insects. We seem to have cultivated a particularly discerning population of fruit flies that appear out of nowhere within moments when you open the good stuff. And, much as I love sharing …
    If you wish to buy some, do a Google search for watch glass, but put ’70mm’ after that, which will narrow the search chemical laboratory suppliers, who sell such things.

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