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Wine Idle Science

The Physics of Wine Swirling 98

Posted by samzenpus
from the just-drink-it dept.
sciencehabit writes "Meet the new flavor of wine: fruity with a hint of fluid dynamics. Oenophiles have long gotten the best out of their reds by giving their glasses a swirl before sipping. A new study has revealed the physics behind that sloshing, showing that three factors may determine whether your merlot arcs smoothly or starts to splash. The researchers also landed on another important discovery: how overly enthusiastic wine swirlers manage to splash their drinks, possibly staining their sweaters."
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The Physics of Wine Swirling

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @05:26PM (#38152610)
    Before the inevitable ridicule, the reason the wine is swirled is to get the aroma into the air inside the glass, enhancing flavor perception. As an analogy imagine taking a shit. You plop one, it stinks real bad for a while but then it gets better. Then you drop another, this stirs up the water and brings the stink back again for a bit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ddxexex (1664191)

      Sorry, this is slashdot. Only car analogies work here. :P Anyone have the car analogy?

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @05:56PM (#38152948) Journal
      Developing the nose of the wine is one reason to swirl the wine, albeit a very small one.

      The real reason to swirl is if the wine hasn't been aerated sufficiently. Red wines in particular (to varying degree depending on varietal, age, etc) have a high concentration of tannins, which are responsible for the astringency of the wine. Aeration of the wine will oxidize the tannins, reducing their astringency.

      Aeration will also mellow the other flavors via oxidation. I have found that a lot of people who say "I only like white wine" are actually just not a fan of the tannins in red wine. Proper aeration after uncorking often results in them liking red wines, especially if I choose a fruitier varietal.

      Good wine snobs will test the nose of the wine (e.g., sniff it), then taste it. If it's too astringent to properly enjoy, they'll either let the glass sit for a while, or swirl the glass to aerate the wine.
      • by snowgirl (978879) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @07:08PM (#38153678) Journal

        Aeration will also mellow the other flavors via oxidation. I have found that a lot of people who say "I only like white wine" are actually just not a fan of the tannins in red wine. Proper aeration after uncorking often results in them liking red wines, especially if I choose a fruitier varietal.

        I know that I've started enjoying Red Wines a lot more since I learned that you have to let it aerate. Opening a bottle of red wine about 30 mins before I intend to drink it makes the red wine taste a lot better.

        • by DeathElk (883654)

          Hmm, I tried that, but the cask split and red wine went everywhere :(

        • by fatphil (181876)
          If you open a bottle of wine and let is stand for half an hour, you will affect about the top 2mm at the surface.

          I was at a dinner party where your claim was made, and an industrial chemist pounced on the claim, proceeding to scribble half a dozen formulae, and do some quick calculations. There is vastly more aeration from pouring than from even hours of standing.

          Do a double-blind test to compare. Include a third sample that's been poured into a decanter, and then poured out again.

          You're probably enjoying t
          • by migla (1099771)

            If I took out a bottle of red wine and couldn't start drinking it for 30 minutes, it would taste better than if I'd immediately poured a glass, regardless of whether it was opened or not.

      • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob.hotmail@com> on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @11:05PM (#38155120) Journal

        Good wine snobs will test the nose of the wine (e.g., sniff it), then taste it. If it's too astringent to properly enjoy, they'll either let the glass sit for a while, or swirl the glass to aerate the wine.

        I just blow bubbles through my straw. Does that make me a good or bad wine snob?

        • by dargaud (518470)
          When a white wine is too young and leaves sharp bubbles in the mouth, I usually agitate it with a teaspoon for a while, the the horror of wine snobs. Makes it much mellower in a matter of seconds though...
        • by Waccoon (1186667)
          I think that makes you a wine slob.
      • Best way to aerate a red wine is to open the bottle, and instead of letting it sit there "breathing" (like the poncey wine buffs tell you) just put your thumb (securely) over the top and shake the fucker. Take your thumb off, then put it back on and shake it again.

        Also, pouring it so it bubbles, rather than pouring it smoothly, helps.

        No need to wait.
         

    • Also as an FYI the other reason to swirl is to observe the viscosity of the rivulets of wine running down the glass after you've stopped swirling. The slower and fatter the rivulets the more sugar still remains in the wine. ie. it's stickier so it moves more slowly. Or to put it in car analogies... When you change your oil and you take the old stuff and swirl it around in a bucket the more use the oil the more it will effect how it sticks to the side of the bucket. The longer the wine has sat around, the

      • by Xoltri (1052470)
        If you want to know how much sugar is left in the wine just use a hydrometer. Plus, I believe the effect you are describing is what most people call the 'legs' of the wine, which is just a property that a mixture of ethanol and water have when mixed and has nothing to do with quality or sugar content of wine.
        • But isn't the sugar turned into ethanol, thus giving it its legs? I'm more than will to be wrong, but that was my understanding. And as far as a hydrometer is concerned, I rarely bring them to tastings. Folks seem to frown on bringing chemistry equipment to haughty affairs.

          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            But isn't the sugar turned into ethanol, thus giving it its legs? I'm more than will to be wrong, but that was my understanding. And as far as a hydrometer is concerned, I rarely bring them to tastings. Folks seem to frown on bringing chemistry equipment to haughty affairs.

            Not all of it.

            Yeast used in brewing die around 5-7% alcohol (basically, from alcohol poisoning). It's why spirits and liquor are distilled. It's very possible to still have leftover sugar after the yeast dies. It's also possible to run ou

      • Also as an FYI the other reason to swirl is to observe the viscosity of the rivulets of wine running down the glass after you've stopped swirling. The slower and fatter the rivulets the more sugar still remains in the wine. ie. it's stickier so it moves more slowly.

        Not quite. That phenomena is known as the 'legs of wine' or 'tears of wine [wikipedia.org]', and it's related to the wine's alcohol content not it's sugar content.

        • by Atzanteol (99067)

          Making wine is a process of turning sugars into alcohol. You can't discuss the one without the other. It's as if you said "frequency of light has nothing to do with wavelength."

          • In this case, no. The presence or absence of sugar is irrelevant to the formation of 'tears'.

        • by fatphil (181876)
          Not quite. The tears are condensed vapours. They have a different composition from the wine itself, as the different components have different volatilities. He specifically wanted to view the viscosity of the liquid itself, and for that, looking at the viscosity of condensed vapours would be useless.
          • Since the tears aren't condensed vapors, you're wrong.

            • by fatphil (181876)
              Quite the opposite, it appears, you're right. However, they are not the same proportions of water/alcohol as the body of the wine, so my earlier point stands - looking at the tears is different from looking at the liquid as swirled.
      • by wahini (559380)
        You are basically right, although it is directly the amount of alcohol in the wine creating the legs, which reflects the percentage of sugar which has been converted to wine. Sometimes they add alcohol or more sugar to create a higher alcohol content in the wine, so a sweet wine could have a high alcohol content as a result, but traditionally a wine with more alcohol has less sugar content, because that is needed to create the alcohol unless the wine is fortified with alcohol.
  • by tverbeek (457094) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @05:38PM (#38152736) Homepage
    I've found that drinking wine directly from the bottle makes all of this irrelevant.
  • 1. Place wine glass on flat surface
    2. Fill wine glass 1/3 full.
    3. While making sure the bottom of the glass never leaves the surface, swirl the glass.
    4. ????????
    5. Profit (get drunk)
    • You can, if you try hard enough, get anywhere between 120 and 200 rpm even higher short term spikes if you get a good rhythm going, all while remaining on a flat surface.

      No, what you need to do, is pour your wine through a tea strainer/sieve thus aerating like a watering can/shower-head.

      Also, blowing bubbles through it with a straw, using a whisk or simply pouring it from glass to glass from a height also works.

  • These guys deserve at least an honorable mention at the next IgNobel ceremony.

    • by hawk (1151)

      Someone actuall published a peer-revieWed article someithing like 10 years ago using med lab equipment to do controlled aeration, Nd then double-blind texting.

      I forget the results; my main relation was, "why didn't I write that article."

      hawk

  • by Stoutlimb (143245) on Wednesday November 23, 2011 @07:47PM (#38154014)

    For some reason I accidentally read the title as "The Physics of Swine Whirling"

    • I read: Wine Sign Whirl Which is the negative-red vorticoidal thing you see in your bath tub when you vomit into it on coming home after that w(h)ine tasting party
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Yeah, it helps to aerate the wine to improve the taste, it makes it easier to sniff the aroma. But fundamentally it's fun.

    And it looks cool.

  • So do I have to swirl my computer around to get wine at its best, that must be why I can't get COD to install on ubuntu. LOL
  • Wine tasting is all about getting sloshed.

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