If you spend much time around wine drinkers, you will have at least heard the concept of “letting wine breathe” mentioned at some point. Often wine does need some air to really show all of its beauty, but there is also a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to the topic of wine aeration. We thought we’d clear the air a bit, and answer some frequent questions about aerating wine.

Why do I need to aerate my wine?

With red wines, aeration can help to soften tannins and to “open up” the wine’s aromas and flavors. This is especially true with newer wines and wines that are high in tannins, but most red wines will benefit from some aerating.

What’s the difference between aerating and decanting?

Although decanting is a great method of aerating a wine, the original purpose of decanting was to keep sediment from finding its way into your wine glass. While most wines today don’t really contain much in the way of sediment, decanting is often used as a means of aerating wine. Decanting increases the surface area of the wine, exposing more of the juice to contact with the air.

How long do I need to decant my wine for aeration?

I hate to say, “it depends”, but…, it depends. Older wines can be decanted and then served very quickly, and in fact, should be served quickly to avoid becoming oxidized. Younger wines and wines that are high in tannins might require several hours to really see much benefit. One of the great things about decanting is that you have the ability to taste the wine over a long period of time and to see it change as it aerates.

Do whites need to be aerated too?

Although it’s less common to aerate a white wine, you can often improve the aromatics of a white wine by aerating it a bit. In general, however, there is not as much need to aerate white wines as reds.

How do I aerate my wine?

We have put together a little video that shows you some different methods of wine aeration.

There are actually several good methods of wine aeration. The first is simply giving the wine time to make contact with air. One common misconception has to do with simply opening a bottle to let the wine breathe. The truth is that this doesn’t really do much to aerate you wine. Have you heard the word “bottleneck” used to describe a narrowing opening that slows down whatever is supposed to be flowing through the opening? Well, the small neck of a wine bottle and the amount of surface area that is exposed is far too small to allow very much air to make contact with your wine by just opening the bottle. Surface area is our friend when it comes to aerating wine. Leaving a wine to sit in a decanter, or even in a wine glass, will increase the surface area that is getting air, and do the trick of aerating your wine when given sufficient time.

Maybe you don’t have a couple of hours to wait for your wine to be aerated. There are a number of different products on the market that will help you aerate your wine more efficiently. One of my favorites is called the Soiree Wine Aerator. This aerator slides directly into your bottle of wine, and then aerates as you pour the wine through the glass ball. The round shape of the aerator allows the wine to spread out, insuring that all of the wine comes into contact with air as it works its way to your glass. There are numerous aerator options that serve the same general function, so it really just comes down to which one you like using most.

Still looking for something more intense? How about pouring your wine into a blender? Yes, you read me correctly. While not a very precise method of decanting, pouring your wine into a blender and flipping the switch for about 60 seconds will pretty thoroughly aerate your wine. The main problem with this method is that you will miss all the stages of the wine opening up and will go straight to the final stage. I would only recommend trying this method out with a very high tannin wine that needs some serious mellowing. Oh yeah, another down side, you have to clean a blender afterwards.

To Air is Human

Properly aerating your wine can really help you make sure that you get the most possible enjoyment out of the glass. If can open up aromas that you wouldn’t experience immediately after opening, and can take the rough edges off of those tannin bombs that you come across from time to time. When you have time, I would always recommend decanting as the ideal method of aeration, but you have plenty of other options when you don’t have time to wait on decanting to do its work. As with anything else wine-related, try it all. None of these methods is right or wrong, it just depends on the situation, and what allows you to get the most enjoyment from your wine.