Why Does Wine Need to Breathe?


Is aerating wine necessary?

Does wine need to breathe, in fact, is aerating really necessary or is it just a snob thing? Unfortunately (as with most things related to wine), there isn’t an answer that’s good for all occasions. However it’s not difficult to get it right, so read on and you’ll always enjoy your wines to the full.

Why does wine need to breath in decanter?

What is aerating wine?

Aerating wine simply means exposing the wine to air and giving it a chance to “breathe” before drinking it. What’s actually happening is the beginning of the oxidation process which will eventually lead it to go off or become vinegar. However in the initial stages, this process  softens the tannins (makes the wine smoother), and enhances the aroma

Should all wines be aeriated?

No. Generally speaking aeration tends improve red wines, as these have the higher of tannins. Varieties that benefit most from an hour of aeration include: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Nebbiolo, Bordeaux, and Syrah to name a few.

What about Chianti?

As this site is a site about tours to Chianti, a paragraph on Tuscany’s most famous wine just can’t be omitted. I’ll start out by saying, it’s always a good idea to allow Chianti to breathe. If you don’t have a decanter, I suggest a good eight hours in an opened bottle at room temperature. If you do have a decanter, I strongly recommend about an hour. It can and does make a difference! Straight out of the bottle Chianti can seem a little flat with not much going on, but let it breath and you’ll have a totally different experience…and a very enjoyable one at that.

So which wines don’t need to breathe?

In general, white wines and some roses don’t benefit from aeration because they don’t contain the high levels of pigment molecules found in red wines. It is these pigments that change flavor in response to oxidation. Also inexpensive red wines tend not to improve in flavor from aeration . In fact, oxidation may make them taste flat after half an hour and bad after an hour! If an inexpensive red smells strongly of alcohol immediately upon opening, one simple option is to pour the wine and allow a few minutes for the odor to dissipate.

However, as I stated in the opening paragraph, there isn’t an absolute truth. Some white wines such as White Bordeaux, white Burgundies, Alsatian wines, and Chardonnay often benefit from thirty minutes in a decanter. Light-bodied whites like Chablis or Riesling, and some sweet wines can also benefit..

How To Aerate Wine

In my opinion there are only two ways…the bottle or a decanter. Well there’s also the glass, but this is the last stage. By the way…I don’t believe in aerators.

The bottle: As a bottle will only expose a small surface area through the neck, aerating will need a considerably longer time. Two/three hours for a young wine, and even eight hours for an aged and structured product.

The decanter: A decanter is a large container that can hold the entire bottle’s contents. Most have a small neck, to allow easy pouring, and a large surface area, to permit mixing with air. Also they should have curved shape to prevent wine sediment from getting into the glass. Here a half hour to an hour is usually sufficient

The glass: If you don’t have an aerator or a decanter, you can pour the wine back and forth between two containers or simply swirl the wine in your glass before drinking it. Actually a very brief swirl before every sip is something I always do. Just a couple of spins, no more.

The aereator: Often used but I don’t think they’re of any use. The time the wine spends in the aerator is a split second, which just isn’t enough to make a difference.

So now you know why wine needs to breathe, you might like to further your knowledge by participating in a wine tasting class at Monterinaldi winery on one of my tours. You can read more here.

Alternatively, have you ever though of organizing a wine tasting at home? Here’s where you can find some useful information on your first wine tasting party.


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