Now that you’ve found your perfect bottle of wine, what should you do with it? What if you have several different bottles that you want to serve on a specific occasion? What if you want to give the case a rest, but the wine still looks great?

The next time you’re drinking wine, relax and enjoy the taste without worrying about how long you’re letting it breathe. It’s a simple question, and it’s fun to experiment with different strategies for how long to let your favorite bottle of wine rest before uncorking it.

It’s Friday, the end of a long week. They decide to open a bottle to celebrate. It could be an old Bordeaux or a bright young Austrian Grüner Veltliner. Pour it into a glass and smell it. A wave of disappointment washes over you as the wine smells like burnt matches and rotten eggs.

Don’t be afraid. A little ventilation is all you need.

First, let’s get something straight. Not all wines need to be decanted. Decanting is particularly necessary for young red wines that need maximum aeration, or for older wines to remove sediment.

However, almost all wines improve with a little aeration, either in a carafe or by quickly turning the glass. How long does the wine need to breathe? And how long do you have to spin before your wrist almost falls off? The answer is… it depends on the situation.

If you have a young, lush, tannic Rhone red wine, you may need to decant it for at least an hour to soften the tannins and smooth out the edges. This is true of most wines of similar structure and concentration. But for an easy-drinking New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc that is fresh, energetic and full of aromatic citrus, an hour’s breathing can blunt the qualities that give the wine character.

However, a few sips and some time in the glass will help remove any restaurant or sulfur aromas from the wine.

 

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Here are some tips to help you decide how long to let the wine breathe so that each sip is brilliant.

Before drinking a full glass, pour a sample at home too

Pour a small portion like a sommelier in a restaurant to test your nose and taste before pouring a full glass. Some wines may have reductive or sulphuric notes, which are particularly evident in aromas of rubber, burnt matches or rotten eggs. These odors often disappear after 10 to 15 minutes. You can opt for a carafe, but it’s easier to pour a small glass and shake it to see if the odors disappear.

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Young, tannic red wines need oxygen to soften tannins

Whether it’s a young Napa Cab, Argentine Malbec or Australian Shiraz, these wines generally need a dose of oxygen to smooth out any unevenness and soften the tannins. If you like to drink these wines straight from the bottle, don’t hesitate. If you let them breathe too long, their lushness is softened too much.

However, most young, tannic red wines can benefit from aggressive shaking and 10-20 minutes in the glass. This produces big, dark wines and allows the dominant oak tones to fully integrate with the fruit and often high alcohol content.

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Wines of the vintage may be prepared directly from the bottle

It is a common misconception that all aged wines must be decanted within two hours. It is a fact that even a few minutes in a decanting bottle can over-oxidize an old and delicate wine. It can reduce the consumption time to just a few seconds.

However, there are wines that can be kept longer, usually those that were initially very tannic, alcoholic and concentrated in fruit, and would benefit from a few minutes in the glass to fully develop. You can also benefit from decanting.

As a general rule, for older wines : The lighter and older the wine, the less aeration it needs. In case of doubt, pour a small sample into a beaker and examine it. Red wines tend to lose their color as they age. The lighter the colour of the wine, the less aeration is required. Inky, bright ruby red, the old opaque wine needs more oxygen. This is not the case for white wines, which gain colour as they age.

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White and sparkling wines should not normally require aeration

This does not mean that all white and sparkling wines cannot benefit from a little oxygen. Of course, if the white wine has soothing notes, give it some air and maybe 10-15 minutes in the decanter. The same goes for deep, rich golden whites that need a little room to line up. But the vast majority of these wines come from the bottle, ready to drink.

If you’ve poured a sample and the wine seems a little bland or less flavorful than expected, put a little more in the glass and shake. The problem usually solves itself.

Enjoy theprocess

One of the most enjoyable parts of a wine tasting is watching the wine unfold from the opening to the last sip. Nothing is more satisfying than when the last sip of a long-awaited wine turns out to be the best one in the bottle. This way you can fully enjoy the journey you had to make. While aerating and decanting certain wines certainly helps them reach their ideal state, tasting the natural evolution of a wine once opened is a pleasure in itself.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you let wine breathe too long?

Yes, but it will become vinegar.

Does letting wine breathe make a difference?

Yes, letting wine breathe will make a difference.

How long should you let red wine breathe before serving?

Red wine should be allowed to breathe for about an hour before serving.

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