How to Swirl Wine During a Tasting (When & Why You Should)


Tasting wine is a different experience from simply drinking it. The purpose of wine tasting is to truly experience the wine, and that means slowing down and taking your time to observe the sights, smells, sensations, and tastes each wine brings. Swirling wine isn’t just about looking elegant (although admittedly, it does look cool). Swirling helps you see, smell, and experience the wine you’re tasting more intimately in a variety of ways.

This article will take you through the benefits of swirling during a wine tasting and teach you how to swirl your wine properly so you’ll know what to do whether you’re on a Tour DeVine helicopter wine tour or at any wine tasting event.

Rose swirling in a Stoller Family Estates glass at a vineyard


Why You Should Swirl Wine

If it’s your first time at a wine tasting, you might wonder why tasters spend so long with a glass of wine before they even take a sip. Although wine tasting is ultimately about experiencing the flavors embedded in the wines, there’s a lot more to it. Smelling your wine to take in all the beautiful aromas, swirling it and looking closely at it, and spending some time talking about what you see, smell, and taste with other people can make the experience more fun and interesting.

Here’s why:

Swirling releases the wine bouquet.

When you swirl a glass of wine, you release literally hundreds of unique aroma compounds, which attach themselves to the oxygen in the air. This helps separate the aromas in the wine, enriching the smelling and tasting experience.


Swirling exposes the wine’s “legs” or “tears.”

The way a wine responds to swirling gives you an idea of its texture and viscosity. Wines that are high in alcohol content or dense and rich with tannins or sugar will swirl more slowly in the glass and stick to the sides. Because of their viscosity, these wines produce more wine legs or wine tears, so you’ll see small streams or droplets left on the sides of your glass after you’ve swirled.

White wine legs in tasting glass at Youngberg Hill Winery in Oregon

Swirling eliminates unwanted compounds.

Swirling wine enables evaporation, which means you release a beautiful mixture of aroma compounds to enrich the smelling and tasting experience. It also allows some of the more volatile and undesirable compounds, which may include sulfides and sulfites, to dissipate from the wine.


Swirling helps you take your time.

Spending some time with your glass before you take a sip can make the tasting experience more fun, interesting, and rewarding. Swirling your glass helps slow the entire tasting process down, reminding you to hold your glass up and look at the wine’s legs, take a sniff and experience the aromas, and truly pay attention to all the smells and flavors when you do take that first sip.


When & How To Swirl Wine During a Tasting

There are lots of reasons why swirling wine is a good idea, but when are you supposed to swirl your glass during a tasting, and how do you do it properly? While the way you choose to taste your wine is completely up to you, following proper wine-tasting etiquette can help you get the most out of the experience.


When should you swirl your wine?

One of the first things you should do when you get a new pour at a tasting is to smell your wine first before you swirl. Then, swirl your wine and smell again before you sip. You may notice your wine as a slightly different aroma pre and post-swirl.

Some tasters may also choose to hold their glass up to the light — natural light is always preferable if you’re near a window during the day — before and after swirling, while others always swirl before they take their first glance. Once you’ve swirled your wine a few times, you can hold it up to the light and observe the wine’s color, viscosity, and texture.

Smell, swirl, see, smell, sip, sip, sip.

Young couple swirling wine and looking at the glasses during wine tasting


How should you swirl your wine?

There’s no perfect way to swirl a glass of wine, but the goal is to get the wine spinning quickly in the glass to release the wine’s aroma compounds and produce legs, all without spilling any wine.

The easiest way to swirl wine (especially if you’ve never given it a try before) is with the help of a table:

  1. First, make sure you have plenty of room at the top of the glass so the wine isn’t in danger of spilling when you swirl it.
  2. Start by placing your glass down on the table.
  3. Place your thumb and forefinger at the base of the glass’s stem while it’s sitting on the table.
  4. Then, draw small circles on the table with your glass, gripping the base of the stem tightly.
  5. Continue swirling for about 20-30 seconds.

As you get better and more comfortable, you can try swirling your glass while you’re holding it, without the help of a table.

Tasting tip: Regardless of whether you’re using a table or not, always hold your glass by the stem rather than the bowl. Holding your wine glass by the bowl not only obstructs your view of the wine you’re tasting, but it also has the potential to alter the wine’s temperature, which impacts its taste.

Young woman smelling red wine at Youngberg Hill Winery in Oregon


Swirl & Taste the Incredible Wines of the Willamette Valley From the Air on a Helicopter Wine Tour

Practice your swirling skills on a tour with Tour DeVine. You’ll fly over the picturesque rolling hills and vineyards of Oregon’s Willamette Valley as you taste award-winning wines, eat gourmet food, and create memories on an adventure with your friends and family. Our tour offerings include three Willamette Valley AVAs — Chehalem Valley, Eola-Amity Hills, and McMinnville — and a wide variety of beautiful, local wineries that provide unique tasting experiences.

Come experience the beauty of Oregon wine country for yourself. We offer tours during the summer as well as off-season— book your tour today, and don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.