We’ve all heard the expression “letting your wine breathe”, but what does that really mean and do?
What it means is to allow your wine to be exposed to the air. Specifically it’s the oxygen in the air that affects the wine. Wine has a funny relationship with oxygen. It’s necessary during the onset of fermentation to allow the yeast cells to multiply. Then it’s detrimental to fermentation, once the yeast have reached saturation and are beginning to create alcohol. It continues to be detrimental right up until just before you drink it. Then it becomes beneficial again. Very strange!
I’ve heard people talk about removing the cork to let your wine breathe, but that makes almost no difference. There just isn’t enough surface area exposed to the oxygen to help. The wine needs to be decanted. The reason decanters usually come in very wide-bodied shapes, is to maximize the surface area. Narrow-bodied vessels are not decanters, but rather serving carafes. If a decanter is not available the wine can be poured into the glasses. Fill the glass to the widest part of the bowl, usually half way or less. The wine can be left to “breathe” for up to two hours prior to consumption. The length of time will depend on the wine. Light bodied wines, particularly whites, don’t need as much time as full-bodied wines, especially the tannic reds like Cab Sauvignon and Shiraz.
There are also aerating devices that can help the wine breathe. Some are passive and just allow the wine to swirl a bit as it’s being poured into the glass. I prefer the active aerators. These devices “pull” air into the wine as it’s funneling down into the glass. So as opposed to just the surface area being exposed to oxygen, the entire glass is. That’s why they work instantly. If you’ve never done the taste test, try pouring two samples of wine from the same bottle. One through the aerator and one straight to the glass and taste the difference a breath of fresh air can make!
Blog provided by: Ray Vezeau, owner of Chateau Vezeau Wines, a ferment on premises winemaking facility in Brooklin. www.ChateauVezeauWines.com