At tastings, many newcomers to the world of wine are unsure about the proper etiquette surrounding swirling and sniffing wine. Is there a right way to do it? Or is it a little like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup slogan: there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s?
Since wine’s scent and taste are both key elements of any tasting, swirling and sniffing are encouraged in order to get the best overall sense of a wine. While most newcomers think taking a single long, drawn out sniff from their glass completes the process, that’s only a beginning part! Before even smelling your wine, you should be swirling it. Swirling aerates wine, opening it up so that its inherent scents and flavors are brought to the fore. You can swirl your glass while it is on the table, or you can hold your glass by the base or stem to swirl it. What matters most is that you actually do swirl your wine!
Once your wine is swirled a bit, put your nose into the glass as far as it will go. (Don’t submerge your nose in the wine!) Inhale deeply for a couple of seconds. Use your diaphragm (your “belly”) to take in a full whiff of the wine’s aroma. Swirl your glass a little more, then inhale again, smelling the wine a second time. Swirl, sniff, swirl, sniff, etc. See if you can identify the scents you are smelling. Do you smell the wine’s fruitiness? Do you smell berries, cherries, or figs? Do you smell lemon, grapefruit, peach, or mango? Observe how swirling and aerating your wine helps bring out a variety of curious scents hidden, before, in your wine.
While there are several quality wine glasses to choose from, wine glasses made specifically for the types of wine you’re tasting often allow you to perceive that wine’s aromas to the fullest. For red wine tasting, consider using Riedel “O” stemless glasses, available as a mixed set, designed to enhance the main red varietals. For white wines, consider a glass designed for your specific varietal, like a Riedel Vinum Classic Sauvignon Blanc wine glass for tasting Blanc fumé, Fumé blanc, Rotgipfler, Sancerre, Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon, Spätrot-Rotgipfler, and Zierfandler. Breathe in, and enjoy the experience! Cheers!