Unlike the video, swishing is not meant to draw attention or stares like you are the biggest goofball in the room.  What it is meant to do is expose as much of your mouth and tongue to the wine as possible.  Reflecting back to Lesson 2:  Head, shoulders, mouth and tongue, mouth and tongue, we know the tongue detects different flavors in different places.  If you take a sip and only allow the wine to cross the very back of your tongue, it’s likely it will taste more bitter than it actually is.  Exposing the wine to all areas of the will bring out the true flavors.

Swish:  What reaction does your mouth have to the wine

  • Acidity – Let’s take a journey back to Lesson 2 when we learned which parts of the tongue sense which flavor elements.  When taking a sip of white wine with high acidity and swishing it around in your mouth, sensations will zing, your taste buds will pucker and you will have a tingling sensation on the sides of your tongue. 
  • Alcohol – While white wines will not reach the high alcohol levels found in warmer climate red wines, growing temperature and ripeness at harvest can heavily influence the alcohol level.  Higher sugar content means yeast has more work today and will present higher alcohol levels when fermentation completes.  Cooler climate grapes have less sugar to process resulting in lower alcohol.  Your mouth may feel warm and cozy in response to higher alcohol in white wines.
  • Body – Alcohol is the primary driver in the body of a white wine with lower alcohol delivering light wines and higher alcohol delivering heavy or full wines.  We will explore this in much greater detail when we dissect white wines in Module 3:  White Wine, but the general principles of cool climate (lower alcohol) versus warm climate (higher alcohol) influences you have already learned start to play out here.  Light white wines from cooler climates may be referred to as crisp, lean, bright or fresh while bolder, heavier whites will have terms such as buttery, oily, rich or opulent used to describe them.  The feel in your mouth will range from water to an oil based vinaigrette!
  • Sweetness – wines with small to significant amounts of residual sugar remaining after fermentation, wines with residual sugar as result of having the fermentation process stopped before all the sugar is turned to alcohol by yeast, or wines which have been sweetened by the addition of sweet juice or wine after fermentation can range from lightly sweet to very sweet.  Many US wines will indicate the level of sweetness, if any, on the label.  Common terms for US white wines include dry, off-dry, semi-sweet and sweet or dessert wine. 

Service Professional Tip:  Gino Grigio Even dry wines may make some consumers think they are sweet – seriously!  This can be the result of the type of fruit and the condition of the fruit in the wine even if it is actually bone dry (no residual sugar).  Stone fruits, like peach, and tropical fruits, like pineapple, leave a very different feel in your mouth which is much juicier and less tart than fruits like lemons and green apples.  Especially if the fruit flavor is of very ripe fruit.  Think of biting into a super ripe peach and how juicy and sweet the flesh of the fruit feels in your mouth.  Even without the presence of sugar, a juicy, ripe peach flavor in a wine can give the impression of sweetness!  If you have a wine on your wine list, or in your cellar, which has ripe stone or tropical fruit flavors, you can now describe it as dry, yet full of juicy fruit flavors!