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Why We Swirl Wine

You’ve seen someone do this if you haven’t already done it yourself. They sit there swirling their wine around in the glass, over and over, sometimes without even looking at their glass. It’s almost hypnotic. But why do people do this? Is it out of nervous social anxiety? Do they need to be doing something else to distract them from the urge to flee the social scene? Are they trying to be pretentious? Or is it genuinely good wine sense?

First and most importantly, it’s because of flavour. Fine wine is something which slumbers in bottles, it needs to be agitated a little to truly wake it up. Much like yourself when you wake up and take a few deep breaths to get going. Wine needs to breathe and oxygen is the key. We need to help ‘open it up’ so you can taste the black fruit in your Shiraz or the zesty citrus in your Riesling. Whichever varietal you prefer, a gentle swirl often changes what you taste (its palate or flavour) and what you smell (its bouquet or aroma).

Speaking of aroma, let's not forget that. Just as flavour opens up, so too does a wine's aroma. Swirling your glass will encourage aromas to be released from the wine.

Test this out by pouring yourself a glass of wine. The bigger the glass the better. Go ahead and smell your wine before you swirl. Get your nose all the way into the glass. Take a deep breath. You'll probably notice very little smell is apparent. Now give your glass a swirl; four or five times is plenty. Try smelling the wine again and you'll likely notice a definitive difference.

A sail needs wind to fill it, a guitarist needs finely tuned chords. It might not be imperative but the pursuit of the best possible wine experience is why we swirl our wine.