Why Does Wine Need To "Breathe" Before Drinking?

Why does wine need to "breathe" before drinking? The reason why you would let a wine "breathe" is you would want the wine to aerate, in other words every wine has certain aromas associated with it. The reason...

The reason wine should breathe is because wine needs to aerate. Every wine has certain aromas associated with it and if the wine does not breathe then one cannot taste all the aromas. Some wines are what we consider tight; the aromas have not come out yet because they are locked away. If that is the case, you want to aerate the wine, open it up and expose it to air so it will release those aromas. The wine will be more palatable, says Brian Hays, a chef and culinary instructor at the Austin Community College. He has taught at the college for nine years. The best way to aerate wine is to put it in a decanter, which is a glass vessel with a wide-open mouth. Just opening the bottle is not an effective way to allow your wine to breathe because it does not allow much air in. You have to pour the wine to aerate.

Young bottles of wine need to breath because the bitter taste of tannin is prevalent. If it is mellowed, by letting the wine oxidize, then one can experience the full taste of the wine. Wines that need aging may not have the aroma and flavor that is expected when first opened because it hasn't reached its maturity. Give the wine a little exposure to air; this provides a simpler way to the gentle oxidation that occurs when wine is aged in a cellar. A majority of the time decanters are used to allow this. If you don't have one, then simply pour a glass and then pour that glass into another glass. This allows it to breathe.

"Most wines are fresh and fruity and ready to go as soon they're in the bottle, and letting these wines breathe risks missing out on their first blush of freshness," states Robin Garr's website wineloverspage.com. Garr recommends breathing only young, tannic wines, typically reds. If you don't want to decant the wine, then pour a glass and let it sit for an hour or two, then the wine will open up to a much better taste.

Wine also goes bad from too much exposure to air, which is called oxidation. It forces the air to oxidize a wine, causing subtle chemical changes that affect both the flavors and the texture of the wine. On average, a bottle should be drunk within five days of opening unless you use a device that will pump the air out. If one does not pump the air out, one can pump the bottle full of nitrogen so the bottle of wine lasts longer. "My firm belief is that if you opened up a bottle of wine and it is good, you would drink it as soon as possible," says Hays. "If you have to store it, then the wine is going to change and it is not going to be as good in most cases."

The next time a glass of wine is poured and doesn't taste as you expected, then allow it to sit awhile and breathe.

© High Speed Ventures 2011