Letting your wine breath

Wine is poured from a bottle in glass on wooden table, close up

Letting your wine breath

The Science and History Behind Wine Breathing

In my research on wine, almost everyone supports the idea of giving wine some air, from certified professionals to your run-of-the-mill wine enthusiast. There is some history behind the idea of letting wines breathe; long ago, winemakers discovered that adding sulphur (sulfites) helped slow the oxidation process of wine, allowing it to age more gracefully. Wine also has a small, tiny amount of naturally-produced sulfites.

When additional sulfites were first added, winemaking was not such the science it is today — we used to have more sulfites in the wine, and perhaps it was useful to let some of that blow off before consuming the wine.

Today, the quantity of sulfites is so minute that there’s no need for allowing the wine to breathe.

Oxidation: Get It Out of the Bottle!

But what about the oxidation process — allowing a bit of oxygen to mix in with the wine that’s been all bottled up? We all know of a wine that tastes better after it’s been poured. Technically, there’s no science to back this up currently, but it’s important to know that if you really do want to aerate a wine, you need to get it out of the bottle — the slender shape of the bottle means little oxidation happens.

That’s why decanters have a large bowl shape, giving lots of surface area of the wine for oxidation. You can use any pitcher to decant wine, to be honest, as long as it is nice and round.