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Tips For Letting Wine Breathe
Wine, as a living thing, resembles a butterfly. Imprisoned in a glass chrysalis, set free for its brief life and consumed. Like the emerging butterfly, the air allows wine to spread its wings and reveal its beautiful and complex design.
But air can also the enemy of wine.
An improper seal on the bottle will oxidize the wine and eventually turn it to vinegar. It is, therefore, important to understand the proper way to let the wine breathe to enjoy its full potential.
Unless the white wine is a Chardonnay from an elite producer in Burgundy, white wines are made to be drunk young, from 1 to 2 years old, and will tend to deteriorate if held longer.
White wines should be served chilled at around 55F and poured directly into the glass to be swirled and tasted. White wine glasses are designed to be narrower and smaller to hold less wine so that the bottle can remain chilled in ice and be recharged with cold wine at regular intervals and not allowed to sit and get warm. Plain and simple, this is the proper way to enjoy white wine.
Even though the vast majority of commercial red wines, especially those produced in the New World, are made to drink young, exposing them to the air will soften the tannins and allow the hidden flavors to be revealed.
Merely opening the bottle and letting it sit is not enough to allow the atmosphere to do its work. However, pouring out a half glass will allow the bottle to function as a natural decanter and expose a greater surface area to the air. But decanting is still a better option.
Red wine glasses are specifically designed to expose the wine and contain the aromas of the wine. Typically they are large bowled and tapered at the top. Fill your wine glass to the widest part of the glass and liberally swirl the wine to thoroughly aerate it and enjoy sniffing the bouquet before taking a sip.
Aeration of the wine doesn’t end in the decanter or the glass. To do justice to the flavor, take a noisy slurp and bring some air into your mouth when tasting. Chew the wine by letting it travel all over your teeth, gums, and palate and breathe gently through your nose to allow the fragrance to penetrate the back of your throat. This way, you can enjoy all the complexity that red wine has to offer.
With very old red wine, there is a danger that prolonged decanting will completely break down the structure. You should decant it for no more than half an hour and enjoy it immediately. Only the finest vintages will last in the bottle, and old wine is not necessarily always a pleasant experience.
As soon as you open a bottle of wine, it begins to evolve and spread its glorious wings and should be experienced in all its stages to appreciate its complexity. Learning to savor it is a transcendent experience and one of the most delightful Earthly pleasures.
Release the beautiful butterfly from its temporary resting place and let it fly! Or, simply put….open that bottle of wine and enjoy it 😉