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Often when a bottle of wine is first opened, it doesn't give off much aroma (the smells of the fruit) or bouquet (the smells that develop with age in the wine bottle). As the wine sits in the opened bottle, decanter, or glass, these qualities may become more apparent.

The same happens with the taste of the wine, which in reality is based primarily on one's olfactory sense (sense of smell) -- "taste," meaning what the tongue senses, is limited to sweet, sour, bitter, and salt.

Thus the wine "opens up," like a flower blooming, as it sits, warms up a bit, and is exposed to oxygen. I think that's what most knowledgeable people mean when they say "opens up."

But wine also changes in the bottle over time, developing aroma, bouquet, and nuance as it ages (or one hopes this is so). It goes through "dumb" stages, when these qualities are suppressed for one reason or another, only to reappear later. That sort of change may also be referred to as "opening up."
Also temperature - if the wine is opened cold, you tend to get less on the nose than you do after it warms a bit.

Oh - and it doesn't mean an inferior wine. Some wines just don't smell as much as others do. And without getting into the whole glass thing, which is mostly a load of crap, it is true that some glasses just don't do much for the nose. If you have a wide and open goblet kind of glass, or a lily-shaped glass that flares out at the top, the volatile compounds that contribute to the smell dissipate too quickly and widely.

And the thing that most people do which they think is so sophisticated but which is incredibly dumb, is they swirl the hell out of the wine for minutes at a time. Just give it a whirl or two to disturb the surface, that's all you need. If you sit there and swirl the wine in the glass like a madman, you just create a little vortex in there with little air currents that blow the aromas away.

But taste it. That will tell you if it's an inferior wine or not.
quote:
Originally posted by GregT:
And the thing that most people do which they think is so sophisticated but which is incredibly dumb, is they swirl the hell out of the wine for minutes at a time. Just give it a whirl or two to disturb the surface, that's all you need. If you sit there and swirl the wine in the glass like a madman, you just create a little vortex in there with little air currents that blow the aromas away.


Gee, I've seen Rene Barbier do that with several wines. Does that mean he's "incredibly dumb?"
Granted. If you want to aerate it, fine. But the question was about finding aromas and a wine's "opening up". So even if you swirl to aerate it, you want to let it calm down before you're going to get max aromas. And there's an interesting thing about those ridges - they're specifically to prevent the vortex you create in a smooth glass.

Board-O - Like I said - ask him. I agree he's a great winemaker. But good or bad - doesn't have anything to do with the physics of what happens in the glass. Or the effect on the volatile compounds you want to detect.

Of course if you just want to emulate whatever he does, OK. Whatever blows your hair back.

Cheers.
quote:
Originally posted by GregT:
doesn't have anything to do with the physics of what happens in the glass. Or the effect on the volatile compounds you want to detect.


You state that as if it's a fact. One of the specific reasons is for detecting volatile compounds, according to Rene. I don't think you know what you're talking about.
quote:
Originally posted by GregT:
And the thing that most people do which they think is so sophisticated but which is incredibly dumb, is they swirl the hell out of the wine for minutes at a time.

I often "swirl the hell" out of my wine so that I can aerate it but also I believe that there is a very small amount of evaporation of the wine that remains on the side of the glass while swirling it and this evaporation allows me to better appreciate the aromas going on. It's why I like to use a big glass for most of my wines. It has nothing to do with being "sophisticated." I don't care what I look like when drinking wine and I certainly don't care what others think about how I look. Drinking wine is an experience that should be enjoyed. If someone derives more pleasure by "swirling the hell" out of their wine, they should do it. Who cares?
quote:
I believe that there is a very small amount of evaporation of the wine that remains on the side of the glass while swirling it and this evaporation allows me to better appreciate the aromas going on. It's why I like to use a big glass for most of my wines.


Altaholic - There is a clear logic to that. The reason usually cited for using a big glass is that you can have a larger surface area for the volatile compounds to evaporate from, while enclosing them in a tight space. As you state, you are essentially providing an even larger surface area, which in theory, could release more.

It would also be independent of the speed with which you swirl, and any improvement would in fact, be most apparent as the wine comes to rest.

Maximizing and disturbing the surface area is the goal for detecting VOCs. As far as swirling, in any vortex, the velocity is greatest at the edge of the vortex. So sending everything off and out of the glass at top speed doesn't seem to make more sense than simply disturbing the wine.

And as far as enjoying wine - of course you are right - who cares how someone looks. I was only addressing the question of "opening up" and didn't call the person dumb, just the counter-productive act.

But I guess Board-o is right. I remember once standing next to Jancis Robinson and she briefly scratched the side of her nose. I'm going to start doing that when tasting wine.
Last edited by gregt
Well, I swirl the hell out of my wine all the time and, yes, it is a tick. Demonstrably so, as I find myself doing it with water glasses as well in case they have a stem. Anyone who does that must acknowledge that they are not trying to get the most outof their water. It is habit.

I think it is an interesting proposition that it may be detrimental to the aromas, all my experience and what I've read - including the creation of the vortex - indicates otherwise.
That doesn't mean I am right in assuming swirling is only positive.
quote:
Originally posted by Markus Randall:
Well, I swirl the hell out of my wine all the time and, yes, it is a tick. Demonstrably so, as I find myself doing it with water glasses as well in case they have a stem. Anyone who does that must acknowledge that they are not trying to get the most outof their water. It is habit.

I think it is an interesting proposition that it may be detrimental to the aromas, all my experience and what I've read - including the creation of the vortex - indicates otherwise.
That doesn't mean I am right in assuming swirling is only positive.


I agree wit hthe tick.. it happens more with really tannic wines that causes my eyes to cross and my eyes to shut tightly, at which my right hand uncontrollable swirls the glass for no apparent reason.

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