The Physics of Wine Swirling

Vladimir Ajaev, mathematician at SMU's Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, talks about the science behind the wine swirl.

by Daniel Strain

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.

Twirling a wineglass gently creates smooth arcs in the liquid that then circle, coating the sides of the glass. The gesture isn't just for appearances, says study co-author Martino Reclari, who studies fluid dynamics at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. Scientists and enthusiasts alike have long known that the swirling motion mixes oxygen into a red, enhancing its flavor. ...

The team's analysis is "simple" but does "make sense," says Vladimir Ajaev, an applied mathematician at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. And the study illustrates well how seemingly everyday physics, such as the swirling of a glass of wine, might help scientists and engineers develop better lab tools: "At first it might seem like a matter of curiosity," he says. "But then it turns out there are some specific applications."