After making a careful selection of a bottle of wine, it’s vital to ensure that it is handled correctly. This can include knowing when the wine is ready to drink, storing the wine correctly, and letting it breathe before serving. The process can seem daunting, but adhering to a handful of practices will make the most of a bottle.
How Not to Let a Bottle Breathe
It might seem like a good idea to simply take the cork out of a bottle before serving the wine to friends or family. However, letting a bottle properly breathe, especially after pulling it out of storage, is a bit more complicated than that. Because of the small, narrow opening at the neck of the bottle, the wine is not allowed any “breathing room” if left in the uncorked bottle. The key to opening up subtle flavors and softening some of the harshnesses of tannins lies in providing as much air as possible to the wine.
The Decanter Breathing Method
The decanter method works particularly well if planning to serve the entire bottle in one evening. It’s as simple as pouring the wine into a decanter, flower vase, or pitcher. The wide opening of the vessel allows air to circulate the liquid. As a result, a sip of a young, high-tannin red can taste remarkably smoother and more settled by the time dessert rolls around compared to the initial taste at the beginning of an evening.
The Wine Glass Breathing Method
Similar to the decanter method, this method involves pouring wine directly into a wine glass and letting it sit and aerate before drinking. It’s important to pour into the center of the glass and to hold the bottle about 6-10 inches above the glass to allow for further aeration while pouring. It’s fine to leave it on the counter, just make sure not to leave it on the kitchen counter long term.
Gauging How Much Time Is Needed to Breathe
The next logical question is how long to let a bottle breathe. The answer? It varies depending on the level of tannins in the wine. Mature red wines that are around 8 or more years may only need 30 minutes. Younger red wines, like a one-year Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux, may need up to two hours. Also, some select white wines, like Burgundy and Alsace wines, can benefit from just 20-30 minutes of air circulation. When storing wine, it’s a good idea to keep a ledger of time spent in storage as well as the age of the wine to remove any doubts as to maturity.
Aerating wine can often come down to personal tastes. After practicing the right wine storage techniques, it’s important to try a few different methods and durations of time to find the right balance for a memorable, delectable wine drinking experience.