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Why does Wine Taste Better After Being Allowed to Breathe?

There are some wines that benefit from being allowed to ‘breathe’.  Oxygen can affect wines in a number of ways and it is important to understand this process and how it could benefit the wine you are drinking.
open bottle

Remember that wine drinking is about personal preference and it is a good idea to get advice on the best ways to store and serve wine from experts and wine sellers.  It is important to taste wine and compare different methods as this will help you discover just how you prefer your wine and which kinds of wines tickle your taste buds.

Red Wines
There is a lot of dispute surrounding the aeration of wine.  However in general, experts agree that aeration is best for red wines.  This is because of the presence of certain chemicals in red wine, notably tannins.  These tannins can be sharp and almost harsh against the palette, particularly in wines that have a large percentage of those grapes naturally higher in tannins (such as Cabernet Sauvignon).

Chemicals in wine alter over time and as the wine ages it can mellow and improve.  This mellowing can also be achieved with exposure to oxygen.  This is why experts do recommend you let young red wines breathe a little before serving.

Some older red wines can also benefit from aeration.  When I go to expert wine tasting sessions at Roberson Wine they always open the old French wines beforehand.  Transferring a wine into a decanter not only lets the wine breathe, but they also offer a more sophisticated way to serve and present fine wines.

As well as encouraging positive chemical reactions, allowing the wine to breathe also lets some unpleasant elements evaporate away.  Fusel alcohol and esters can introduce a stringent note on the palette but aeration allows some of these to evaporate, benefiting the taste of the wine.

Be Your Own Judge
However oxygen can also affect wines in other ways.  Introducing oxygen to wines can cause a number of different chemical reactions.  This means that some wines will simply not benefit from aeration and the only real way you can judge whether a wine needs to breathe or not is by tasting.

Some of the cheaper red wines do not have a large percentage of tannins.  Many white wines also lack tannins.  The taste of these wines can actually degrade if left to breathe for too long and they can become bland.  You will need to experiment and take the time to do your own tasting.  If you like the affect oxygen brings to wine then let it breathe; if not then don’t.

The Taste Test
It can be difficult to carry out taste tests at home.  It can be expensive to buy a wide range of wines for tasting sessions and without expert guidance it can be difficult to understand the subtle variations in taste.  This is why it is a good idea to visit wine shops and suppliers for expert tasting sessions.  This provides you with a great introduction to various different kinds of wines and the diverse range of tastes you could expect to encounter.

When tasting red wine it is a good idea to choose a large glass.  This introduces as much oxygen to the wine as possible whilst it is in the glass and really develops the bouquet.  Swirling the wine in a large glass also helps to encourage unpleasant chemicals to evaporate away.

Expert tasting sessions are a good way to find new wines for your table.  It can be too easy to get stuck in a rut and keep buying the same wines; yet there are so many wonderful wines now available from all around the globe that you could be missing out.  Let the experts introduce to new exciting tastes and help you discover a whole new world of wine.

Carlo Pandian is an Italian expat living in London and loves sharing his wine tips with the community of A Glug Of Oil. He loves visiting wineries in Burgundy and eating homemade organic food.

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