From the Greek meaning 'heavy with wine'
A blog devoted to science and reason
Written after a glass or two of Pinot Noir.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Swirling your wine.

Last night for dinner, I opened a great bottle of Syrah from my favorite vinery, Blackjack Ranch near Solvang, California. It prompted me to finally write about some wine science, the science of wine swirling.

Swirling your wine helps release the volatile aromatic compounds and exposes the wine to oxygen allowing the esters, ethers and aldehydes to oxidize. These chemical reactions enhance the bouquet of the wine, The bouquet of the wine is especially important, because it is your sense of smell that mostly determines what you taste. These same reactions though will eventually turn your wine into something nasty. So if you open a bottle, drink it.

Being right handed, when I swirl wine I tend to swirl it counterclockwise. It never occurred to me to try to swirl it the other way. That is, not until I came across this - Wine Swirling, Left or Right? It Matters! Read it and be awed by Ralph de Amicis.

Lets start with this:
Like all living things wine cells have a magnetic polarity, just like humans and the Earth.

What in the hell is a wine cell? The basic component of all life is the cell. WIne is fermented grape juice. It's not alive, although wine sometimes makes me feel more alive. Cells do not have a magnetic polarity, although some cells may contain magnetic compounds. It is thought that this may be a mechanism that allow birds to navigate during their migrations.

"The positive pole is more highly charged, just like the North Pole of the Earth, which is why there are Northern Lights in the Arctic Circle, but not Southern Lights in the Antarctic."

The Earth's magnetic field causes the Northern Lights, but he claims there no such thing as the Southern Lights. So what is this a picture of? The Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) as seen from the International Space Station.

"This polarity tends to keep wine cells generally upright, spinning on their axis when they are being swirled. This magnetic action within a liquid is commonly demonstrated in laboratories. Because plant molecules are mostly liquid, when they form they are also subject to the electromagnetic forces that are a component of the rotation of the Earth. As a result, the pores on the surface of the molecules develop based on that rotation, like the shingles on a roof." 

I can't take it! Plant molecules are liquid? Nonsense. The electromagnetic forces that are the component of the Earth's rotation. Please make it stop! Molecules have pores? Now this is actually starting to hurt.

"When you swirl the wine counter-clockwise you are pushing against the molecules nap, just like stroking the fur of a cat the wrong way…"

Now I'm rolling on the floor imagining petting a molecule the wrong way.

But on a serious note. I have no doubt that Ralph believes every word of what he writes, and he provides the perfect rationale for why serious scientific research, especially ones involving human subjects, always are double-blind studies. In a double-blind wine tasting, one researcher would take the samples of wine label, pour them into glasses, and label the glasses so that the wine's identity is unknown to anyone else. These samples are then given to second researcher who would then present the samples to a subject. Using this method, the second research cannot inadvertently influence the subject and skew the results. When subjects are allowed to be influenced you get humorous results like these studies.

If this blog post accomplished anything, I hope it was to get you to open a nice wine and enjoy. Cheers!

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