Oenodynamics: The Science Behind The Swirl

If you’ve ever spent time around finer company and a premium bottle of wine, you’ve most likely witnessed – or caught yourself – swirling the liquid in your glass. It’s kind of fun, you’ve seen it in movies, and it adds a hint of class to your drinking experience. But why swirl? Its actual name is Oenodynamics and science may have the answer.

If you’re like me, you lived your early wine years mostly through the cask variety. However, as we get on, and a ‘big night out’ goes from dance parties to dinner parties, we all need to become somewhat of a wine connoisseur. To help in this pursuit, swirling your glass in a rotating motion will release the wine’s full potential, increasing smell and flavour.

The Science

As is the case with all finer things, there’s a science to the art. Dr. Mohamed Farhat of the Swiss Institute of Technology is the scientist/artist who prides himself on the deeper meaning:

‘As the wave propagates along the glass wall, the liquid is displaced back and forth from bottom to top and from the centre to the periphery. This pumping mechanism, induced by the wave, is more pronounced near the free surface and close to the wall, which enhances the mixing.’

This science is known as oenodynamics (everyone’s favourite science). It is described as ‘orbital shaking’, due to the liquid’s rotation around a central mass. The drinker’s gentle shaking oxygenates the wine, further bringing out its full potential.

‘For a given glass shape, the mixing and oxygenation may be optimized with an appropriate choice of shaking diameter and rotation speed.’

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The How-To Of Oenodynamics

Online wine professionals Vinepair agree that the velocity of the orbital shaking is entirely up to you. The reserved amateur may choose to keep his glass firmly rooted to the table, moving his wine in a small circular motion. While the extroverted expert may instead elect to hold his drop of choice above eye level and really throw the shoulder into the rotation. However, both techniques will get you to where you’re going: a nice glass, fully oxygenated and living its true potential. The effect is similar to that of opening wine bottles long before we pour them in an effort to ‘let it breathe’.



You may now head to your next wine tasting with confidence and maybe a neat conversation starter. Oenodynamics agrees that sometimes – just sometimes – it’s OK to be a snob. Or, you could just stick to the beers.


Jay is a writer and content producer for The Versatile Gent.

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