Through all the melodrama of the past few weeks, I’ve neglected to educate the newcomers about the art of winetasting. So, I dug deep into my inbox for this query:
I went to a ball last night and wasn’t aware of the proper pre-drink swirling of the wine glass. What’s the point of swirling a glass? Doesn’t wine stain clothes? It seems risky. I’ll do it next time, but I simply can’t wrap my head around the practice. -Jordan
First of all, Jordan, I’m sorry that you embarrassed yourself at this social function. Don’t take it personally; consider yourself another failure of the public education system. For years, I’ve been telling instructors they should teach proper winetasting in secondary school. But they’ve ignored me, and here you are, at this ripe old age (I assume), looking for guidance. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. Bear with me and keep in mind that I’m the one with the experience.
We drink wine for the taste, not the intoxication. If you disagree with this basic premise, close this window immediately and take up beer-drinking. Because we want the taste of wine, we have to do some pre-sip work to bring it out. And that’s the reason we swirl our glasses and stick our noses inside.
Wine rests for months or years before being consumed by sophisticated folk like ourselves. But, unlike a Coca Cola or Estathé, wine needs oxygen to open up. So, we grab the glass’ base and give it a few swirls. I enjoyed making a show of my swirls when I was younger, but nowadays, a subtle flick of the wrist will do. You’ll find your own style, Jordan; what’s important is that you’re giving the hidden aromas oxygen to bind to, thereby releasing the tasteful notes within. There’s no need to swirl for more than five or ten seconds—anything more could diminish the taste.
Now that the wine has been prepped to maximize flavor, you must prep yourself… with the sniff. Be warned: the sniff separates the wine-drinkers from the children; you can see this for yourself at any dining establishment. Here’s how it works: our bodies don’t use solely our tongues to taste. The olfactory sense is linked to our noses, as well. And so, we use both our noses and mouths to taste wine’s natural flavors, which, if you’ve properly swirled your glass, will be waiting for you.
Don’t be self-conscious, either! Drop your nose in the glass and take a firm sniff. In fact—“sniff” isn’t the right word: take a wholesome whiff of the wine, and make an effort to relish the moment. Take in the taste, and it’ll make your taste buds more-than-excited for you to take a delicious sip.
Once you’ve swirled and whiffed, Jordan—your reward will be waiting for you. Right there in your hand. Enjoy!
-Sommelier Ferdinand. 18.8.21