Most people will have heard the expression of “letting wine breathe”, but what does it mean and how do you do it? Many wines benefit from aeration because it helps to release and develop flavor and aroma. When it comes to letting the wine breathe however, there is a lot of information around that is often misleading and incorrect. So we decided to answer a few common misconceptions concerning wine aeration.
What are the benefits of aerating wine?
There are two main benefits of aerating wine. The first one is that the wine releases or “opens up” the trapped aromas and flavors that have been confined within the bottle. The second advantage is that compounds such as the tannins that give the wine a harsh or rough edge, are also expelled by some degree. This gives the wine a smoother, softer taste. Younger red wines in general tend to benefit most from aerating because they haven’t had a chance to age naturally in the bottle as the older wines have.
How much time does aeration take?
The time a wine takes to breathe is determined by the wine itself. Generally though, the younger the wine, the longer it should be left to aerate. The tannins in the younger wine will be released over time as they are exposed to the air. Older wines, because they have matured in the bottle for longer and many of the compounds and tannins have mellowed, typically enjoy a far less breathing period. Decanting the wine allows the wine to be tasted at different intervals so you can see how the wine develops its flavour over a period of time.
Is there a difference between decanting and aerating?
The answer is yes and no because decanting wine serves two purposes.
The first and original reason was to remove sediment. Today, wine is produced with new methods that usually generates less sediment than the old methods did many years ago. Sometimes though, there is sediment and decanting the wine will remove the majority of it.
Secondly, decanting the wine helps the wine to breathe, so it is a way of aerating it. The act of pouring wine and it splashing around the decanter helps with the aeration, as does the exposure of the surface of the wine within the decanter for a short while.
So decanting the wine aerates the wine but also can remove any sediment.
What about aerating white wines?
As a rule, white wines don’t need to be aerated to the same degree as red wines. The concentration of tannin is far less in white wines because they spend a lot less time in their skins when being produced. There are however, some white wines that benefit from aeration such as white Bordeaux, Burgundies and chardonnays that because of the way they are produced, contain higher tannin levels.
Some intrinsic aromas can also be released by aerating white wine so it is worth experimenting. Bear in mind that decanting white wine will also warm up the wine a lot and may need to be chilled again.
What are some other methods to aerate your wine.
There are quite a few ways to aerate your wine. For more information, please check out this short article – Methods to aerate your wine.