Wine-swirling explained.

(some wine, prior to orbital shaking)

I like red wine. There’s something about it – a juicy cabernet sauvignon, for example, can go with just about anything, and stem-ware is far more sophisticated than a beer glass. I’m fairly no-nonsense with my wine choices. If I like it, I like it. I don’t like white wine, so I therefore do not subscribe to the wines-go-with-certain-foods bit. I’ll have a delicate merlot with fish, I don’t care. It’s tasty.

One thing about wine I don’t like is wine wankers. Everyone’s seen one (or more! They tend to move in groups in order to outdo each other in obscure wine factoids), and this being the end of year party season, they’ll be out in force. But we now have some science-based ammunition to use against them. They’re the person who does the whole ‘wine swirly’ thing like they’re some kind of wine expert and they talk loudly about the bouquet and its delicate nose, and then when they finally get around to drinking it, will often claim that they can definitely taste the lingering summer apricot flavour imparted on the palate. They will often compare wines especially in the company of others drinking a different variety of wine: “yes, but this is rather thin and has no depth on the palate compared to the 2009 <insert fancy brand here>. Now that was a nice wine, plenty of character, intense smoky flavours with delightfully structured tannins…..” Or something equally wanky. My eyes tend to glaze over when I hear this kind of thing. Yes, we get it, different wines are different. And don’t get me started on terroir…!

ScienceDaily is reporting on some research into the actual mechanism of wine swirling. But we don’t call it swirling, that’s absurdly unscientific. We call it orbital shaking. We understand that the orbital shaking sends a wave around the glass – that’s essentially the point of the swirling, but the mechanism by which the liquid gets aerated and mixed has so far eluded fluid engineers and dynamicists (Now there’s a cool job title. “What do you do?” “I’m a fluid dynamicist”). How it has eluded them for so long I don’t know. But what the researchers from Switzerland found was that the swirling motion of the orbital shaking means that as the wave moves around the glass, the liquid is displaced from bottom to top and from centre to periphery. This creates ‘free surface’ near the wall of the glass and it is this that enhances the mixing and aeration. So that’s why you can smell the wine as you swirl it in its glass.

So, the next time you’re confronted with a self-proclaimed wine afficionado, busily swirling his wine glass and telling anyone who will listen about the ‘complex depth of the bouquet’, you can say, ‘oh yes, isn’t it neat how the orbital shaking of the glass produces a wave action that enhances the aeration of the wine via the pumping action of the wine from the middle to the edge of the glass’. BAM! Science wins!

A final thought. I wonder how much wine the researchers had to drink in order to generate enough results arrive at their conclusion. Now that’s a data set I’d be keen to collect! 😉


One thought on “Wine-swirling explained.

  1. Pingback: Coffee-spilling explained | Increasing Disorder

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