To swirl or not to swirl?
The idea behind swirling is simple and sensible: Rocking and turning your glass so the wine spins up and coats the sides is a good way to "open up" the wine's aromas. The thin coating of wine that you've spun onto the inside walls of the glass evaporates rapidly, releasing volatile aromas. Insert nose, sniff, and you can enjoy much of what the wine has to offer before you take the first taste.
This is so much a part of the wine-tasting tradition that it's customary to fill wine glasses less than half full, leaving plenty of room to slosh and sniff.
But many experts now advise that you sniff before you swirl, particularly you're taking a taste to approve the wine before it's poured.
According to Ralph Hersom, the sommelier at Le Cirque 2000 in New York City, (quoted in a recent article in Wine Enthusiast magazine), because swirling accentuates the appealing volatile aromas in wine, it may briefly cloak the unpleasant musty stench of a wine afflicted by a bad natural cork, perhaps persuading you to accept a wine that should have been rejected.
Even when the wine is sound, many experts say, smelling the wine both before and after swirling is one more way to enhance your enjoyment, as you compare the difference in aroma before and after. You'll find that some wines don't change much with swirling, while others gain an altered personality. Like a lot of other wine-tasting tricks, it's not mandatory to spend time with this. Like most other hobby interests, you don't HAVE to analyze your wine in order to enjoy it. But if this kind of thing appeals to you, try it next time you pull a cork. Pour the wine, sniff it, then swirl before you sniff again, and see whether you can detect a difference.
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Value Languedoc red
Domaine d'Aupilhac 1997 Montpeyroux Coteaux de Languedoc ($14.99)
FOOD MATCH: The wine's earthy and fruity flavors make it a fine match with light lamb meatballs with a puree of potatoes, turnip and celeriac.
WEB LINK: I can't find a Website for the producer, and perhaps surprisingly, Kermit Lynch doesn't have one. But you might enjoy a wine consumer's report of a visit to the winery, in Andy Abramson's "Road Reports" on WineLoversPage.com: http://www.wineloverspage.com/roadreports/road6.shtml.
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This week's Champagne
Champagne Philipponnat non-vintage "Royale Reserve" Brut ($29.99)
FOOD MATCH: It makes an excellent pairing with a slice of medium-rare veal roast served on an airy "pancake" of chopped spinach and pureed celeriac.
WEB LINK: You'll find the winery Website at http://www.champagnephilipponnat.com/; click the flag icons for English or French.
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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.
Vol. 3, No. 47, Monday, Dec. 10, 2001