Does letting wine breath make it better?

I am not a wine drinker but I have always been curious if you let wine breath does it enhance the taste somehow?

I think you mean “breathe”. Don’t drink unitl you’re 21 or until you can spell, hon.

Yes, it alters the flavor. Most red wines taste very bitter until they’ve “breathed”. How or why, I’m not sure - I just wanted to correct your spelling. (insert smiley face here)

Formerly unknown as “Melanie”

A friend of mine who is in the restaurant business says that most of the wines people ordinarily drink don’t really need to breathe. It doesn’t hurt them, but it doesn’t make a big difference either. The only ones that really benefit from it are older wines that have been cellared for a while.

Goddamnit, if there was ever a time to remember where I read that article…

The purpose of letting a wine breath is to oxygenate it, to permit the exchange of owygen for carbon dioxide that builds up in red wine slowyly over time. I might have the carbon molecule wrong, but that’s the essence of it.

That said, the article I’m vaguely recalling was about two scientists arguing over this effect, and whether a bottle standing open accomplishes it. They tested it, and found that a standing bottle ‘breathes’ very little, if at all, given the diameter of the neck and the lack of motion on the part of the wine. What does have big effect is decanting the wine: pouring it into a pitcher or caraffe. This accomplishes a far greater exchange of oxygen for carbon-whatever.

That said, I still wonder how it is that decanting wine accomplishes what pouring it into one’s glass doesn’t.

Never attribute to an -ism anything more easily explained by common, human stupidity.

You got it exactly right, hansel, right down to the gasses. (Although I like the article’s more general “unsavory gasses”). Here’s a reference to the study.

The thing that decanting does that pouring into a glass does not is remove sediments from the wine. It’s a lot easier to pour a wine bottle once, leaving the sediment in the bottle, than it is to do once for each glass.

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

When you uncork a wine, the gas in the top of the bottle is C02, which is heavier than air. It acts as a pretty good protective layer between the wine and oxygen. So no ‘breathing’ is going to happen. I guess it’s possible that pulling the cork causes a suction which will remove the CO2, but I’m not sure about that.

If it needs to breathe, decant it.

I am an idiot, for which I apologize. The other thing that decanting does is get the breathing process started good and early. Opinions differ (hah! That should be the motto of the entire wine industry!) as to how long before serving to decant, but for meals at home, I usually get best results by decanting a good 20 minutes before serving the wine to guests (assuming a moderately-aged, full-bodied red). In a restaurant that is usually impractical of course, but one perseveres.

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

Right you are saxface and thanks!

I always heard – Warning! WAG! – that red wine, served at room temperature, should be decanted and allowed to breathe, but white wine, served chilled, did not need to be. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?


Fiat Justitia

That’s the usual instruction. I remember once taking a particularly unimpressive red wine and pouring it into a decanter and letting it sit for about a week. It was delicious afterwards.

It depends on the wine. Red wines with a lot of tannin in them (burgundies, cabernets) can often do with a little breathing before serving (especially cabernets). Other reds (beaujolis) don’t really need it. Whites don’t have the tannin, so don’t need it at all.

“East is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does.” – Marx

Read “Sundials” in the new issue of Aboriginal Science Fiction.

RealityChuck is right. For most whites, decanting is unnecessary. However, you may find that some very young whites have a “sulfur” aftertaste that will dissipate with decanting, and some older ones can acquire some sediment.

Necessary or no, decanting will not hurt a wine. So if you dropped big coin on the leaded crystal decanter, go ahead and use it!

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

Check out this site:

Back off, man. I’m a scientist.

Waiters usually advise decanting because it adds substantially to the bill. :wink:

It’s a long way to heaven, but only three short steps to hell.

Some of the cheap wines haven’t finished brewing so letting some air in for a day can smooth them down quite a bit.

Decanting a wine isn’t neccessarily better than pouring it in a glass when it comes to letting it breathe, it is a question of time. If you let it sit in a glass for the same amount of time as it would have been decanted, the effect is the same. I find that the heavier the wine, the longer it ought to breathe, an hour wouldn’t be too long for a nice bottle.


I think you mean “breathe”. Don’t drink unitl you’re 21 or until you can spell, hon.

That’s UNTIL hon :slight_smile:

better check your own spelling before you correct mine…after all nobody is perfeck…lol

I’m the best there is Fats…even if you beat me, I’m still the best.
Paul Newman in the Hustler

I read this book about four years ago, so some things are a bit hazy…

Emile Peynaud is generally considered this century’s greatest enologist. His book “The Taste of Wine: The Art and Science of Wine Appreciation” is considered the text to have amongst all my enologist friends. Anyway, he was pretty vehemently opposed towards aeration, in that it serves to volatalize and dissipate some of the nose, and oxidize some of the flavor components, overall diminishing the quality of the wine.

No slight to Peynaud, but the brasher, coarser (cheaper) reds I drink generally benefit from a bit of oxidation. I usually open a bottle, have a glass or two, then recork it for the next day. Granted, you can taste a bit of the oxidation after sitting for a day, but some of the harsher tannins have been mellowed as well. My philosophy with wine: if you like it, drink it. If you don’t, then don’t drink it. There’s no need to decant or not to decant unless you get more enjoyment from the wine via your method.

No one mentioned what wine so Im talking about the $2.99 Trader Joe Merlot wine. Its great, I like to let it breathe a little but my friends don’t.

There was an article in the NY Times a couple of weeks ago on this very subject, if you care to go hunting for it. I was by some sort of conoisseur- can’t remember but something about his credentials made me trust him, and said that in many cases letting the wine breathe will kill the wine. Don’t ask me for details.
“Would you care to smell the bottle-cap?”

Short answer: not really, with some minor qualifications.

Long answer:

It’s largely a “wine snob” thing now, with some historical reasons why it was done at one time that don’t really apply so much nowadays.

At one time, sulfur dioxide was thought to be a dandy preservative for wines (particularly reds, which are often meant to be stored longer than whites). By letting the wine “breathe” after opening, some of the sulfur dioxide escapes and the wine doesn’t wind up tasting like those magic snake fireworks smell.

Now, if you can keep the wine from going bad by dosing it with sulfur dioxide, and then allow the sulfur dioxide to escape just before drinking it, everything is both hunky and dory, right?

Except that it turns out that some people are allergic to the sulfites formed when you put sulfur dioxide in water. And while letting the wine breathe REDUCES the amount of sulfite to something that doesn’t taste bad, there’s still enough to bother those who are allergic to it, and sulfites aren’t particularly GOOD for you even if you aren’t actually allergic to them. So winemakers have cut back on the sulfur dioxide and/or gone to different methods for preserving the wine. As a result, it’s no longer quite so imperative to allow red wine to breathe before drinking it, and it was never really necessary for most whites in the first place.

Letting truly old vintages breathe is probably still not a bad idea. Unless you’re allergic to sulfites, you should be fine drinking more recent wines as soon as the bottle is opened (if you ARE allergic, you should probably avoid any wine with the sulfite warning label).

Some wines (port, for example) are aged in such a way that they oxidize and take on their characteristic flavors. The traditional way to do this with port is to allow extra “head space” in the aging vessel so that there’s plenty of oxygen.

You normally DO NOT want other kinds of wine to oxidize (there’s nothing really WRONG with allowing it if you like the way they taste when oxidized, but remember, we’re being wine snobs here), and I don’t believe that most wines contain significant amounts of carbon dioxide (sparkling wines being the one notable exception, and in that case you don’t WANT them to go flat).