If you have witnessed the entertainingly ceremonious swirling of wine in the glass, it can be both curious and odd if you are new to wine. Whether you have tried this or not, there are some things you should know about the swirling of wine. Believe it or not there is a purpose to this seemingly over-pretentious act.
First of all we need to look at wine as a whole. The way wine is produced, bottled and packaged is an involved process, and the creation of wine is a complicated process. Crushed and macerated skins create juice that are often pulled and pumped into multiple vessels before being heated up because of natural reaction in the sugars being eaten by yeast cells, then expelling carbon dioxide into the air while alcohol is born. When wine finally rests, it is only for a short period of time considering its journey. Soon the wine travels (via pump) from the tank or barrels where it has been resting in a relaxed state, and then into the bottling line, where the bottles are filled. After being jostled and finding their home, molecules bounce off of each other in a crazy manner. Tannin molecules wrestle with the various acids and proteins, seldom finding balance and compromise for quite some time. Think of a bullet in a steel room being shot only to have it ricochet within the confines of a tight space where it eventually will come to rest. This is the environment that wine goes through during this phase.
Waking up the Wine
Open a bottle of wine. Pour the wine into your favorite wine glass filling it approximately 1/3, and allow the wine to sit. If you inspect the glass closely as the wine sits in the glass, you might notice legs running down the sides of the glass and small the wine. Don’t be afraid to put your nose inside the glass and inhale through your nose and try to detect various aromas. You might find some light fruit aromas or perhaps some mild earthen spices. These aromas and flavors are present but still trapped underneath the surface of the wine, sealed beneath a layer of cohesive surface tension elements sometimes referred to as the ‘meniscus’.
Now it is time to wake up the wine. Start breaking the layer of wine in the glass by gently swirling. Take the glass in one hand and slowly draw circles on a flat surface such as a table. Once comfortable, speed up the process slowly and continue for about 8-10 seconds.
Immediately after swirling, stick your nose in the glass and deeply inhale, engaging your sensory memory and imagination. This is why the wine glass should only be a third full. The aroma molecules cling to the sides of the glass, allowing you to gain an intense perception of the wine.
Are you thinking the aromas remind you of fresh berries from the market, or perhaps your grandfather’s old leather chair? Maybe you smell fragrances that remind you of walking in the woods after a heavy rain, or the first time you ate blackberries. For each person, a new sensory experience ma in fact be linked to a past memory. This connection is important for you to gain your palate and begin to explain what you are experiencing.
Continue to swirl the wine often before going back into the glass and confirm the aromas your nose detects. Once your brain has made the connection, continue sipping the wine, allowing your palate to enjoy the full marriage of aromas.