Ask Wine Wizard

Get Your Swirl On

TroubleShooting

Jack Kerr — Santa Fe, New Mexico asks,
Q

While watching an interview with a winemaker, he noted that the bouquet would be opened by “counter clockwise” swirling. I had never heard anyone indicate in which direction I should swirl before this. What say you, Wizard? Also, any chance there would be a difference depending on southern/northern hemisphere?

A

I say Toe-may-toe, you say toe-mah-toe . . . this sounds like a bizarre wine myth in the making that we should just quash right here. Though undoubtedly, swirling your wine glass does indeed liberate more of the volatile (a fancy word for “smell-able”) compounds in a wine and is an important part of any wine-evaluation session (dare I say ritual) there is no canonical pronunciation for which direction in which it might be better to swirl.

Perhaps the winemaker you mention above was right handed, as am I. I find that it’s natural for me to swirl my glass in a counter-clockwise direction, but it’s just because my natural chirality (handedness) makes it easier for me to do so in that direction. Lefties tend to find that they have an easier time swirling in a clockwise direction. Try swirling in a direction “against your hand” and you’ll see what I mean. Perhaps what the aforementioned winemaker meant was that it’s important simply to swirl, no matter what the direction? If not, I would posit that he or she need to be taken to task for promulgating false wine snobbisms.

There is one thing to be said, however, for swirling in the direction “of one’s hand.” If one were right-handed, one’s swirl might be a bit stronger from the counterclockwise (more comfortable) direction and you may liberate some additional aromas or at the very least will lessen the risk of wine spill-over.

This discussion sounds like a fun cocktail topic or a party discussion waiting to happen. Feel free to have the conversation as a point of curiosity among your friends, but please do tell them that a real live winemaker told you that it didn’t matter — or make the wine better or worse — if you swirl counterclockwise or clockwise.

Response by Alison Crowe.