People, animals and even plants need to breathe to live. It’s pretty obvious, but in the epicurean world, wine also needs to breathe, too. Wine has a culture and a whole life all its own, both geographically and by class. All of the ins and outs where it comes to buying, storing and serving wine can be totally intimidating, but you should take the steps to avoid that. The way to avoid intimidation is to educate yourself about the customs involved in wine and wine service and then learn why those customs exist, and then abide by them. They are proven to work.
Letting wine breathe is one of those customs and it really does matter. Sounds kind of “snobby” but it has a real purpose and will affect the flavor of the wine. Letting the wine breathe, or aerating the wine, allows the wine to further evolve when it comes in contact with air, and not only can this affect the flavor, but it can even affect the strength of the wine.
The air interacts with the tannin in the wine, producing a more mellow and less sharp flavor. While the taste is softened, the aroma is enhanced and will bloom during the aeration that will bring forth the subtle flavors within the wine. And if you know it’s going to taste better after aeration, you are most likely going to want to wait to drink it.
Because there’s more tannin in red wine, these are the wines that most need to be aerated. White wines do not all necessarily need to be aerated, but as a good measure, do some research on the exact white wine you have to see if it’s one that will benefit from breathing.
Different wines require various aeration times. If you have a wine that is pretty subtle, then it will not need to be aerated very long...say five minutes or so. A strong wine can need up to a full hour of aeration. It’s good to know what you are drinking, in order to know how long your wine will take to fully aerate, giving you the best that particular wine has to offer.