The other night Mike pulled a bottle from our rack for us to share while watching an evening movie. We opened it, poured a couple glasses and sat down to enjoy our night. While the taste was good it was also a touch harsh for our taste and left us trying to recall why we had selected that particular bottle for purchase. So we let it sit, re-corked it, and after pouring another glass the next night we were reminded of what we tasted at the winery. The experience also reminded me of some questions I am regularly asked: What is the proper way to aerate wine? What kind of wine needs to be aerated? When should I aerate my wine for my dinner party?
From Wikipedia: “Aeration is the process by which air is circulated through, mixed with, or dissolved in a liquid or a substance.”
“Letting it breathe” is the common phrase for aerating wine. While it may seem a little snobbish, aeration can enhance the flavor or boutique of the wine making the wine much more enjoyable. The typical reasons to aerate wine is to soften the tannin and to eliminate the bottle stink. Sometime tannins can be harsh, particularly in younger red wines and by allowing the air to filter through the wine it breaks down the tannins. Decanting the wine also eliminates that stale odor that sometimes lingers after uncorking the bottle. I must add that it isn’t a really good idea to aerate lighter white wines, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc or older wines (40 years or older). Most red wines are good to aerate, young wines, and even thick Chardonnays. Really the length of aeration depends upon you. Always taste after opening the bottle and taste periodically thereafter till you achieve your acquired taste. I have had bottles of red taste amazing right after uncorking and others have evolved over night. I would say that if you are serving a younger wine uncork it the evening before your event and it always looks nice when serving from a decanter. A bit of advice is to put your empty decanted bottle of wine next to the decanter it has been poured into, so that people have access to the information of the wine that they are drinking.
While there are several methods of aeration, the most typical way is to use a broad decanter. Pour the selected wine into the decanter while allowing the liquid to circle against the glass, I have even noticed wineries pouring it through the decanter twice. Pour wine into your glass the same way you would pour it in your decanter, by allowing the wine to hit the side of the glass it allows the air to really circulate through. After tasting the wine and you still find it a little harsh, give the glass a few quick swirls to open the wine up and allow the flavors to blend.
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