Unpolished Grape 101: Why Do We Swirl Wine?

Why do we swirl wine? I’ll give you a hint – it’s not to look cool, and it’s definitely not to spill your wine- that would be tragic.

It’s to unlock the magic. Literally! It’s true, swirling your wine around the glass allows wine to interact with oxygen, thereby awaking the secret aromas and flavors within the liquid that you need to enjoy your wine in all its magical glory.

Unswirled Wine

A still glass of wine will emit some primary, secondary, and tertiary flavors present in the fermented grape juice. If you were to place your nose around or in the glass, you’d probably be able to pick up on a few aroma characteristics. For example, you may identify notes of lemon, peach or honeysuckle in a white wine, or strawberry, herbs and cedar in a red wine. If you were to taste the unswirled wine, you’d probably taste something very similar.

Swirled Wine      

Swirling a glass of wine before you smell or taste will cause a couple things to occur. First, the aromas and flavors will be stronger and more pronounced. Second, you may be able to pick up on even more aroma and flavor compounds that were more dormant in the unswirled glass. So instead of identifying 3 aroma/flavor characteristics, you may now be able to smell and taste many more notes.

Why does this happen? Oxygen is a powerful agent that can interact with foods and liquids to change what we taste. When we swirl (aerate) wine, the tiny flavor compounds in the wine that were below the surface now float up to our nose and interact with our olfactory system, enhancing what we smell and taste. As a result, we now get to meet all the extra compounds that were once shy to come out and play!

So now we have the Goldilocks effect. Just like anything else, too much of something isn’t always a good thing. If wine is exposed to oxygen for too long, like if you leave your uncovered glass of wine out overnight, the exposure to oxygen over long periods of time will eventually over-oxidize your wine (think vinegar), making it taste pungent and icky.

So now you know why you should get your swirl on!


Follow me for more wine education and tips!

One thought on “Unpolished Grape 101: Why Do We Swirl Wine?

Leave a Reply