All red wines benefit from aeration. Some – but not all – white wines also profit from the same attention.
The term aeration is often described as the wine needing to ‘breathe’. In movies and sitcoms, wine lovers are often mocked about wanting a wine to ‘breathe’, and teased about trying to be overly fancy. But there is actually a good reason for it!
The reason this is done is often to bring out and enhance the wine’s flavours by exposing it to oxygen. Although it is recommended and followed by wine enthusiasts to open a wine bottle and let it sit before drinking, this is not enough and a lot of the taste is lost unless it has gone through aeration. While aeration is recommended for good quality wines, even lower-qualities wines will benefit from this method.
The most simple method of aerating a wine is decanting it. You can get specially designed decanters that maximise the oxygen exposure. If you don’t have a specially designed decanter, use a glass vase or fish bowl. If you don’t let on to your guests that they aren’t expensive, high-quality wine decanters, the average Joe will be none the wiser!
A tip that you can follow is – the older the wine, the more impact aeration will have. Old red wines need relatively little time in the decanter, otherwise this will mellow the taste and the delicate flavours will then be overwhelmed. Try to do no more than 10-15 minutes of air exposure (this is a matter of preference).
If you know that the wine has very high tannins, or is a very young wine, it will need a much longer time to breathe. Around an hour is often enough to mellow the tannins of this wine and enjoy it fully.
In addition to using decanters, you can also buy specialised aerating devices that have the same result as decanters but are more efficient.