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Swirl, Smell, Sip

Sebastian Payne MW - Wine Buyer

I was amused and astonished to hear that some two years of scientific research had concluded that more interesting aromas emerged from wine if it was swirled around than if it was sniffed undisturbed in the glass. Amused, because I have been swirling samples of wine round in glasses for the last 30-odd years in cellars and tasting rooms and occasionally, to the embarrassment of my wife and daughters, in restaurants and other people's houses. Astonished, because if serious scientific study has been applied to this for two years, there must be more to discover than just how to bring out the characteristics of a wine.

There is no doubt in my mind that smell is extremely important and in fact also hugely influential on taste. That is why The Wine Society has long recommended using good-sized uncut thin glasses filled third to a half full as the best way to enjoy wine. The more complex the wine, the more important this becomes. I remember sitting beside the late Harry Waugh, one of the wine trade's most admired palates, when he was in his nineties and had lost most of his sense of smell. He was able correctly to deduce that he was drinking Cheval Blanc on the palate alone (and he hadn't seen the label or known the host's cellar). But most of us need the help of a swirl and a sniff, then another swirl and another sniff before drinking and fully enjoying a good wine and then guessing it wrong!

The Society's range of glassware can be found online here. You can also get tips on wine-tasting techniques on our website.

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