Why We Let Red Wine Breathe


A common saying around social circles is “this wine needs to breathe” but what does that even mean? A lot of red wine drinkers know the “swirl” in the glass is common but may not even know why they are doing it. Choosing the right glassware for your wine is definitely key in this breathing process, however there is another step that can really aid in the enjoyment of your favorite bottle.

Why decant wine?

Decanting serves two main purposes. One is to separate wine from any sediment that may have formed. The second is to aerate the wine; or let it breathe which is done to help the flavors and aromas come through upon serving.

Older red wines can produce sediment as they age as the tannins and color pigments bond. This can cause a gritty texture and bitter flavor. Decanting ensures this sediment is not mixed in, giving you the best possible flavor. Assume a red wine that is 5+ years old will have begun to form some sediment in the bottle.

Decanting wine is not just for show, and even in this modern age of industrial filtered wines, some will still benefit from time in a decanter.

To swirl or decant?

When it comes to a newer wine without sediment, the aeration can occur either in a decanter or by performing the swirling motion in the glass. Is one better than the other? Really it comes down to personal preference and taste. A decanted wine is ready to drink immediately whereas wine poured directly in the glass will need some time to reach its full potential. We highly recommend decanting in a social situation, so your guests do not have to put in any effort and can simply enjoy the wine you chose to serve.

How long should a wine be decanted?

The length of time a wine needs depends on the age of the wine and your own personal tastes. An older wine (15+ years) and lighter reds should only be decanted no longer than 30 minutes prior to serving to ensure the wine does not become oxidized. A younger, more full-bodied wine can be decanted for up to an hour.