Everyone does it: at restaurants, bars, tasting rooms, even the sommelier in good restaurants.
But why do we stir the wineglass before tasting it?
Some people stir the wine because they know that there is a good reasons to do it, but some others stir it because they have seen the experts doing it or just because it looks good on them! :D
Shaking the glass of wine to taste it is not only showing off, there are good reasons for doing it. When you stir the wine you get:
First, the non obvious: it allows a certain evaporation to take place making the most volatile compounds of the wine to dissipate. These include sulfides (phosphorus matches), sulphites (rotten eggs) or even strong odors to alcohol.
Secondly, it allows the wine to breathe. The agitation allows the oxygen to adhere to the compounds that form the tannins and round them, giving them a smoother nature. This is also the reason why it is good to user a decanter or an aerator because oxygen helps it to open.
Thirdly and perhaps most importantly, shaking the glass activates the esters, flavoring them, which allows you to better capture the aromas of the wine and therefore enjoy it more! This is also the reason why it helps to taste the wine in a good, large, tulip-shaped wine glass, as it concentrates and directs the aromas towards our nose.
Anyway, the most important thing we do in the shaking of the glass is ... to look like a great wine expert! No, just joking, what's really important is that you enjoy the wine! But it's not a bad idea to practice at home, with a good quality glass of wine, so when you're in a restaurant you look like a pro!
The best two ways to look like a professional (with a touch of humor):
The teacher style:
Hold the cup down the shaft, with the base firmly on a flat surface and stir it quickly for 4-5 seconds, then breathe in deeply while saying "uhmmm ... okay, okay" with a seriously academic look and facial expression. Get extra points by putting your glasses on the bridge of your nose ;).
The sommelier style: hold the glass by its base with the thumb and forefinger and tilt it so that the wine extends to its edge. Evaluate the color while making non verbal grunts of approval or consternation. Raise the cup and stir it anti-clockwise for at least 10 seconds, then insert the nose into the cup and breathe audibly, to say "okay, you can serve" but pretending that you are making him a favor for not returning the bottle ;)
Kidding aside, after you buy your wine, let it rest for at least 24 hours at about 15ºC (reds) so it recovers from transportation, open the bottle a while before consuming it, or decant it, and observe the wine (visual phase: sharpness, intensity, color, transparency, rim), then stirring it a little (secondary aromas) and then stir it more (tertiary aromas), then take it to the mouth (gustatory phase) passing it through the whole of your mouth so it reaches all the different taste buds, and finally swallow it expelling the air through the nose to get a good retronasal phase.
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