Letting Wine Breathe

Published on April 2, 2008

Perforate, aerate, and breathe. They all mean the same thing and they are all referring to wines. Letting wine breathe is simply letting your wine be exposed to the surrounding air. This way, the wine will warm up and the aroma will open up, the flavor will soften and mellow out, thus giving more flavor to the drink.

When to Do it

Don't aerate:

  • Light whites, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chennin Blanc, will usually gain no discernible improvement from aeration.
  • Old wines, about 40 years or older, can be completely oxidized and lose their flavors if exposed to air for too long

Do aerate:

  • Red wines older than 5 years
  • Complex red wines, even current release, such as high end California Cabernet Sauvignon and high end New World Syrah
  • Red wines made in a restrained, Old World Style, such as Rioja, Chianti, Barolo, red Burgundy and red Bordeaux

In most cases, red wines are the ones that have to be perforated. In general, wines will improve their flavor in about 15 minutes. It does not mean that one could not drink it immediately after uncorking, but the taste would be able to improve with a little air time.

Mature wines need not to be aerated for a long period. And as a rule, the more tannins a wine has, the more it needs to breathe.

How to Do it

There are two ways in letting wine breathe. One is to use a decanter, which is any large container with a wide opening at the top. Pour the wine to decanter, thus maximizing the air exposure. Another method is by using a wine glass. Pour some wine into the glass and let it aerate from there.

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