To Breathe or Not to Breathe…and How to Breathe

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What does it mean to let a wine breath? We take a deep breath ourselves to address this important topic.


Letting a wine breathe means subjecting it to air – specifically, oxygen – to aerate. The air contact helps a wine “open up”, meaning that its aromas will be more pronounced and its flavors will be softened and mellowed.


Should all wines breathe? Most wines don’t particularly benefit from breathing, but the ones that really require air contact are highly tannic reds – like a young and intense Cabernet Sauvignon. Taste the wine to determine if it needs to breathe. If it tastes harsh and astringent, let it breathe. If not, go ahead and pour.


What’s the best way to let a wine breathe? Contrary to popular wisdom, uncorking (or unscrewing) a wine and letting it sit is not enough. The neck of the bottle admits too little air, and there’s just not enough surface area of wine at the top of the bottle to do the job.


You have a number of choices, it seems. There’s no shortage of gadgets on the market that claim to aerate your wine in a hurry. Call us cheap, but we haven’t invested in any of them.


The simplest method, we think, is decanting the wine. Simply pour the wine from the bottle into a decanter or any other vessel you have handy, thus exposing the wine to air as it makes the transition.


An alternative you might consider: Pour the wine into your wine glass and let it sit for 20 minutes. If you have more self restraint than we do, it’ll work.



Barbara and Beverly