Letting a Red Wine Breathe

Friday, May 2nd, 2008 at 12:00 am

wine decanterLetting red wine breathe is one of the important aspects of wine appreciation. Some beginner wine aficionados may not know that most red wines might need some time to breathe after opening up a bottle to fully appreciate the wine. There is good reason why red wines need to breathe.

Why let wine breathe?

Red wines, especially the vintage ones, have been sealed in the bottle for quite a number of years. The wine would have a considerable amount of tannins which can come from the grape skin as the grapes are being processed into wine.

The idea of letting the red wine breathe is too soften up the tannins in the wine. As the air comes into contact with the wine, it allows the tannins to soften up, making the wine smoother. Not only that, letting red wine breathe can allow the wine aromas to open up, helping improve the overall flavor characteristics of the wine. Letting the wine breathe can also help give it some time to come to its proper serving temperature.

How to let wine breathe

Some people may think of letting the red wine breathe as letting it stand for less than an hour or so. This might not provide the actual purpose of trying to aerate the wine since only a small surface area of the bottled wine is in contact with the air. The proper way to let red wine breathe is by using a decanter or a wine glass.

If you wish to aerate the whole bottle, the use of a decanter or even a glass pitcher would be suggested. Any other large container with a wide opening would be good enough. The increased surface area is the key to aerating the wine and allow more air or oxygen to make contact with the wine.

For aerating a small amount of the red wine, a wine glass would be sufficient to allow the wine to breathe. Just pour the right amount of red wine into the wine glass and let it sit and breathe for about an hour or so. The time required for the wine to breathe would depend on the amount of tannins that it contains. This means that the more tannins the wine has, the longer time is needed for it to breathe.


To further aerate a better part of the red wine, try to pour it towards the center of the wine glass with a good six to ten inches of fall in between them. This allows better aeration of the wine as it is being poured.