Most wine experts cringe when they hear people say that simply removing the cork on a vintage bottle of wine for a few minutes is enough to make it taste better. This is an old myth yet one that seems to persist even today. As a result, many people end up wasting good money on expensive wine, only to find that it didn’t taste quite like what they expected.
In this article, we get into the details on how long to let wine breathe in bottle and a few essential things to look out for. Only then can you expect to serve the perfect glass of wine every time.
Why is it necessary to let a bottle of wine “breathe” in the first place?
Now before we discuss how long to let wine breathe in bottle, it is essential to understand why it is done in the first place. For starters, think back to a time when you opened a bottle of wine and just let it sit for a few minutes before drinking it. Did it make a difference? Probably not, and this is because you did not give the wine the chance to decant and aerate thoroughly.
Giving the wine enough time to aerate accomplishes two things — it oxidates the wine and triggers evaporation of compounds that do not contribute to the wine’s desirable taste and scent. One such compound is ethanol, and while it is necessary to the process of winemaking, the smell of alcohol can be overpowering when you’ve just opened a bottle of wine making it difficult to appreciate the wine’s natural flavors. Hence, letting the wine aerate removes these compounds leaving only the desirable elements that you can savor and enjoy.
Merely opening a bottle of wine and leaving it for a few minutes will have little to no effect in terms of improving taste and scent. This is because much of the wine does not come in contact with the air while it is inside the bottle. It’s the same reason why wine can stay fresh for a few days after you’ve opened it.
So back to the question – how long to let wine breathe in bottle?
Wine experts recommend letting a bottle of wine aerate for at least an hour (on average) before consumption. Of course, this would depend on the type of wine and its’ “character” so to speak. Ideally, you would want to research a particular bottle of wine before purchase and how to sufficiently bring out its’ taste through aeration.
In most cases, you would want to be careful with vintage wines as they are “fragile” as people run the risk of aerating them too much. In this case, it would be best to let the wine aerate in a wine glass or decanter instead of leaving it on the bottle.
Using a wine aerator before serving a bottle of wine
So what if you can’t afford to wait an hour so to aerate your wine? Perhaps you’re hosting a wine tasting party, and you’re looking to serve your guest a fresh batch from the cellar? Surely, you can’t leave your guest waiting, but at the same time, you would want to make sure the wine is at their best.
If you find yourself dealing with the situation described above, then you may want to invest in a device called a wine aerator. As the name implies, the latter rapidly aerates wine by forcibly mixing air with wine as it enters the device. As a result, what used to take an hour can be done in just a few seconds which is perfect for when you are in a pinch and need the wine to taste their best shortly after opening it.
Wine aerators on the market are available in various types which include small portable units that attach directly on the bottle and fully aerates the wine as you pour it into a bottle.
Should you aerate all types of wine?
Now just as important as learning how long to let wine breathe in bottle, is the fact that certain types of wine don’t need to be aerated at all. As mentioned earlier, you need to be careful not to aerate vintage wines for too long. The last thing you need is to ruin an expensive bottle of wine by letting it stand for too long and turning it into vinegar. The same thing applies to white wine and most affordable wines that are geared towards quick consumption.
So how do you know if your wine needs aeration or not? Well, it all depends on the type of wine you have and the flavor that you are aiming for. Most wine experts would advise against aerating an expensive bottle of vintage wine like the “Pinot Noir” as doing so can easily admonish its subtle taste and aroma.
In the case of white wine, aeration is almost always unnecessary as these types of wine have no tannins, to begin with. Thus it makes little difference whether you let a bottle of white wine aerate or not and might actually ruin the taste of the latter.
So there you have it — an overview on how long to let wine breathe in bottle and what you need to look out for in the process. As you may have already realized, the process is not as simple as you might think and it is undoubtedly useful to know how to do it properly and recognize the cases wherein it shouldn’t be done at all.
Of course, the factors mentioned above is merely a rule of thumb for aerating a bottle of wine. The bottom line is that wines are made differently and have distinct characteristics. For best results, you would want to do some research on a particular brand of wine how to let them “breathe”. In some cases, a bottle of wine may not need to be aerated at all or should only be done for a few minutes. In any case, the more information you have on the matter, the better your chances of maximizing the taste and aroma of every bottle of wine you serve.