To breathe, or not to breathe? When to aerate or decant a wine

by Jul 17, 2020News0 comments

To be, or not to be? (Photo by Amer Aryaei, from Pexels)

To be, or not to be? (Photo by Amer Aryaei, from Pexels)

(A Shakespearean introduction for a weekend post? We might be getting over-dramatic, sorry for the pun.)

Hi, dear reader! We are back with a take on when it’s best to aerate (and also decant) a wine.

It could be that you have a decanter or a wine aerator at home.

But have you ever really thought about what they are really useful for?

Well, it’s widely said that leaving a bottle open for a while before pouring the wine into a glass makes it taste the best, given that aeration would allow it to fully “breathe”. Or also that decanting is a always a must-do.

Apart from the fact that a wine already starts “breathing” when you open the bottle, aerating a wine can mean something pretty simple you do without realizing: by swirling your glass, you are already pumping some oxygen in there.

This allows it to release aromas and also evaporating some of the alcohol that otherwise would be excessively felt on the nose and the palate.

All in all, the aeration (in this bigger sense of having it open earlier, especially by decanting), does allow a fuller expression of many wines.

Decanting is great for young, tannic wines, but it’s not something universal. (Photo by Geoff Parsons)

Decanting is great for young, tannic wines, but it’s not something universal. (Photo by Geoff Parsons)

This happens mainly to red wines, especially bolder ones.

You’ll most likely notice this if you allow the aeration of or decant younger, tannic reds, like the full-bodied superstars Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, stronger Tuscan blends, Douro or Malbec. This will help mellow the stronger tannins and evaporate the most volatile aromas, whilst emphasising fruit and oak aromas.

Decanting provides a bigger surface of contact with oxygen, making this “breathing” process much more efficient in within less than half to an hour, and also separates unwanted deposits, such as unfiltered crystals and sediments, which bolder reds usually carry in larger amounts.

It’s also a pretty charming act, but that’s another story.

It’s not always a case of decanting

Larger aeration, as from decanting, can on the other hand make older, complex or more delicate age-worthy wines fade quickly, muting some of its more subtle fruity aromas.

This is also that you should think of when looking at lighter red wines, such as Pinot Noir.

Meaning: maybe it isn’t the case to decant that lovely Burgundy, just swirl.

In the case of white wines, which are tannin-free, it is even less necessary. It could even be that the excessive aeration and volatility could numb the fruity aromas in there and misbalance their acidity.

A tip, when in doubt? Swirl and compare the performance.

More importantly: when aerating or decanting, be sure to pay attention to the best serving temperature and the best glass to sip each wine.

Knowing the best steps in all these three parts is what will really make a difference to fully enjoy your wine’s aromas and flavors.


More articles on wine tasting


Explore More from Our Blog

Alti Wine Exchange Indexes: 2021 overview and trends for 2022

Sergey Glekov Senior financial analyst The Alti Wine Exchange Indexes are a family of equal weighted indexes which trace price performance of fine and rare wines and shows equal weighted average returns on them. The indexes are subdivided by most important wine...

They have created the perfect storm for controlled demolition of money

I’m glad to be back talking financial insights, one glass of wine at a time. First they shut down the economy, to save lives. With the closure of the economy, production ceased. To compensate for non-production or reduced production, people were paid not to lose...

Spanish Cava Sparkling Wine: What You Need to Know!

Spanish Cava Sparkling Wine: What You Need to Know!

What is a Port Wine?

DEAR READER, Let’s start February off with a simple question: Good morning, Mr. Ferdinand, What is a Port wine? -Jacques Thank you, Jacques, for your brevity. Let’s get down to business! Ports are an underrated, very particular type of wine made in the Douro Valley,...

What to Expect for Fine Wine Investments in 2022

Let’s face it, between an ongoing COVID pandemic, erratic markets, fires, floods and major humanitarian crises, 2021 was exhausting. And though none of us can be sure what to make of 2022, we can say with confidence that fine and rare wine investments are looking...

Holiday Gift Guide for Fine Wine

It’s that time of year again! And so begins the search for the perfect holiday gift. Something unique, something that shows you truly care. How about a gift that keeps on giving? An investment. Imagine their surprise when you tell them that their gift is resting...


DEAR READER, As I grow immensely in popularity, I’ve noticed more of you interested in my personal life. I didn’t begin e-blogging with this in mind, but I don’t mind indulging every now and then. I imagine my intellect intimidates a lot of you, so maybe shedding some...

The Truth about Fine Wine

Fine wine. What does that really mean? The truth is, as words, they don’t mean much. There is no official classification system for the title “fine wine.” It’s not like the regulated usage of “Premier Cru” or “Grand Cru Classé,” for example, rather anyone can throw it...

Maipo Valley Reds

DEAR READER, I am again-and-again charmed by my readers’ curiosity! It reminds me of being a young sommelier, ready to take on the world one glass at a time. I know far too much to feel that way again—but at least I can experience a shred of it through you all! Dear...

Liquid Harmony

Harmony. Think Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Think Picasso's The Old Guitarist. It’s that moment when various elements come together to create magic. And magic really is the word, no? Wine can also sip in harmony, and I can think of no better example than the...

Where Does the Phrase “Aging Like Fine Wine” Originate?

DEAR READER, I received this charming question from an inquisitive reader last week. Dear Sommelier Ferdinand, Where does the phrase “aging like fine wine” originate? It’s so fun! -Imani I just love your question! What a lively spirit you have, Imani! I’m more of a...


DEAR READER, Let’s get down to it! Dear Sommelier Ferdinand, I respect your point of view, but I must ask: don’t you think worshipping wines is partaking too mightily in the past? Wouldn’t you rather create your own memories than indulge in nostalgia? -Ethan Ethan,...