< back to resources

Swirling Wine: Why Swirl Wine? | Top 3 Methods

By
Brad Johnson
Table of Contents

Wine is a beverage known for the unique ways people consume it. Between smelling wine, learning how to decant wine, and knowing how to hold a wine glass, there’s a lot to learn about wine

Another one of the important wine terms is swirling wine. But, why swirl wine? Hasn’t the liquid already moved around enough in the bottle?

There are multiple benefits to swirling wine, whether you’re having a single drink or serving guests at a party. Read on to learn more about wine swirling.

Why Do People Swirl Wine?

People swirl wine to release the intricate aromas inside of them, thereby making the wine easier to smell and taste. Since wine’s ingredients and flavors are so advanced, it’s impossible to separate all of them from molecular alcohol bonds as soon as you use an aerator. Your drink needs to be coaxed a little more to reach its full potential. 

When wine is swirled, the chemical compounds within fermented alcohol are released and bond to oxygen molecules. This is the process of ethanol being converted into acetaldehyde. Oxidation--molecules losing electrons through exposure to oxygen--allows the aromas to be more noticeable since they aren’t as heavily mixed with alcohol anymore.

The process of oxidation helps to maintain a low acid wine no matter what flavor you’re drinking. Be sure not to over-oxidize your beverage, though, or else your wine will taste too dry and flat. 

If there’s any possibility you may have a wine allergy because of certain ingredients, make sure you check the manufacturer’s information first. Ingredients shouldn't be left up to chance, especially if you are looking for gluten free wine brands.

As your wine oxidizes, you’ll be able to smell dozens more of the compounds in wine. By separating each of your wine varietals’ unique scents from their ethanol origins, you can appreciate them in full. 

Keeping track of dozens, or even hundreds, of wine flavors is challenging even for an experienced sommelier. If you’re in charge of bar management or need an easier way to do bar inventory, we have the solution. BinWise is your all-in-one bar inventory software that tracks daily variance, integrates with popular POS systems, and reduces manual data entry. 

BinWise includes BinScan, our inventory scanning app that scans more than 100 bottles per minute. Provide your team the tools they need to get work done more efficiently. Book a demo now to see BinWise in action. 

How To Swirl Wine Glass

Want to know how to swirl a wine glass? It’s pretty simple. There are a few ways to swirl your glass, depending on what kind of event you’re at. 

Here are the top three:

The Base Grip

One of the most common ways to swirl a wine glass is when your glass is tabled. Once your wine is poured into a stationary glass, insert the glass stem between your pointer and middle finger. Think of this grip similarly to how you would hold a cigar or twirl a pen. You're using your fingers to keep the stem in place while keeping the glass from falling over on the table. 

Next, gently rotate your glass in circles on the tabletop, keeping light downward pressure on the glass so it doesn't fall over. Repeat this motion several times to ensure the wine’s aromas have been sufficiently released. There’s no specific number of times to swirl; just whatever rounds out the body of the wine. 

A different way to grip the glass for the same technique is by pinching the stem where it meets the base. This is a common way many people hold their wine when drinking from it, too. 

After swirling, lift the glass’s bowl up to your nose and smell the wine. You should notice a more concentrated aroma, indicating you’re ready to sip. 

The Stem Grip

If you want to know how to swirl wine like a pro, holding your glass by the stem is the way to do it. First, grasp the stem of your glass with your dominant hand. Lift your glass up and hold it in a comfortable position. 

Second, with your glass at a slight tilt, rotate your glass in small, tight circles. You want to use a similar pace and level of control as you would while seated, making sure not to spill any wine. Keep a wine stain remover on hand if any spillage does occur. 

Third, simply swirl a few times until you’re ready to smell the wine. Then lift the bowl of the glass up to your nose and have a few sniffs. An easily noticeable aroma will signify that your wine is ready to drink. 

The Bowl Grip

The third way to swirl wine is with the bowl grip, though it’s the least advisable. With this type of grip, you’re placing your palm nearest to the wine. This transfers some of the heat from your hand to the wine, which can reduce the flavor quality of your drink. If you prefer to use this grip for greater comfort, it’s still an effective way to swirl wine. 

First, grasp your wine glass’s bowl underhanded with the stem between your pointer and middle fingers, or middle and ring fingers. Second, gently swirl the wine glass in small circles. Keep an eye on the wine level so it doesn’t spill out of the glass. 

Third, raise your glass and smell inside the bowl. You should notice a stronger aroma than when the wine was poured into the glass. Once the scent is noticeable, feel free to begin drinking. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Swirling Wine

If you’re new to the world of wine, swirling liquid in a glass may seem a little strange. Can’t you just start pouring wine and enjoy the rest? 

It turns out that swirling your wine takes the flavor up a notch. If you haven't done it before, you may have questions about it. Take a look at these frequently asked questions and our answers below: 

What does it mean to swirl wine?

Swirling wine is done for several reasons: to increase the wine’s exposure to oxygen, release all of its aromas, and reduce its acidity level. Wine sommeliers are experts at swirling wine to accomplish these goals. 

Whether you're learning how to swirl wine for the first time or need to brush up on it, it’s a good skill to have. This kind of hospitality industry knowledge impresses friends and guests and you can use it at both formal and casual events. 

Why do you swirl wine counterclockwise?

It is a myth that swirling wine counterclockwise (or either direction) will produce certain aromas. You can swirl your wine clockwise or counterclockwise; what really matters is your dominant hand. 

Some believe that swirling wine counterclockwise (left) releases the fermentation barrel scent, and that clockwise (right) releases the wine’s fruit aroma. However, there is no scientific basis for these theories. You can swirl wine however you’re most comfortable doing so. 

How long do you swirl wine?

You can swirl wine for anywhere from a few seconds to a minute or more. There isn’t a specified time you need to swirl a glass of wine, just whatever feels right. 

If you’ve just opened a bottle of wine, it can help to swirl it longer. The flavors and aromas need to be exposed to more oxygen because they’ve been sitting untouched in a bottle for at least a couple weeks. Other than that, simply swirl your glass for a few seconds and smell the bowl before sipping. 

Sip Back and Relax

Whether you’re researching how to become a sommelier or simply want to wow your guests, it’s great to know how to swirl wine. It’s a somewhat overlooked activity that can take your hosting skills from average to excellent. Refer back to this blog post whenever you need to refresh yourself on wine swirling techniques.