Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I Choose to Swirl!

Physics of Wine Swirling
Twenty or so words added to every Tasting Note published in this blog are devoted to the results of swirling.  And I call it a 'discipline' as the steps involved, the dynamics, the angle of the glass start to finish and the conclusions drawn from the reaction of the wine throughout this physical act are an essential part of my tastings. The steps are deliberate, observations are interpreted and simple descriptors record the event.

Professionals can deduce many incidentals just by tasting and some believe swirling is not essential. An unstated factor may be the time it takes to swirl. The number of wines in tasting events may prohibit the seconds it takes to do a respectable swirl including recording observations. If there are upwards of 300 samples in a tasting period swirling and observing could take an additional 6000 seconds - over an hour and a half. Why bother? Nobody else is doing it? Wouldn't the taster look pretentious if he/she were the only swirler. So it's not done!!  The explanation is... "Why Swirl? It's not needed!"

This attitude/approach carries over to everyday tastings: a sommelier performing a pre-dinner sampling, a sip with tour guests, tasting a distributor's newly received stock or doing a perfunctory tasting of a winery's barrels. "Why Swirl? It's not needed!"

None of these professional venues match my solitary tastings of the glass sitting in front of my computer keyboard. Swirling fits between sniffing and sipping which fits between viewing colour (another 'questionable' parameter) and imagining how the finish contributes to a social savouring and/or suitable pairing. Swirling predicts several aspects of a wine: viscosity or visible showing of a liquid's, wine in this case, adhesiveness or sticking power to a micro-polished sampling glass, from initial release of a rotational spin to its return however determined to the main mass. Patterns are formed betraying the liquid's density, its alcohol and sugar level, its clarity. For instance, patterns of a low alcohol, dry Riesling vary substantially from a hot, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Swirling accomplishes something else: Surface airing or mixing a small portion of wine with air and the release of aromas into the glass bowl. That initial pour from the bottle can be quite different from the sniff and mouthful following a swirling which is more characteristic of the wine when it's served.

I'm not suggesting you adopt swirling as a practice... it's something that adds interest and to a certain extent enjoyment to my tasting experience. However, I suggest you are cautious if you hear a 'professional' say  "Why Swirl? It's not needed!"  You're not on a timetable to get your records into the judges. Relax! Enjoy each sip! Take the time to swirl. See how it adds to your wine experience rather than dismissing it by accepting a misleading view.

My opinion, Ww


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