How Long Should You Let Wine Breathe?
For the sophisticated drinker, wine is one of the great pleasures of life. There’s a reason wine is the drink of choice for 30% of Americans.1 A tasty companion for food and available at nearly any price point, vino is steeped in history, science, and culture.
For some enthusiasts, learning the nuances of grape varieties or soil quality deepens their appreciation of the beverage. Others may find such talk intimidating—or unnecessary.
Whatever your level of wine knowledge, there’s one low-hanging piece of information that will dramatically improve your enjoyment: Learning how long should wine breathe.
No, we don’t mean giving your Cabernet Sauvignon wine space to meditate. Aeration helps soften the taste and smell of tannins and sulfites, elevating your drinking experience.2 While the exact amount of time called for depends on the type of wine and its age, optimal aeration generally takes between 0-30 minutes.
Below, we’ll break down breathing ranges for the most common types of wine.
A Guide to Aptly Aerating
When people ask, how long should you let wine breathe, the first thing they need to understand is that determining the answer is as much an art as a science.
Think about the last happy hour you attended. You may have noticed that a few guests needed thirty or forty minutes to open up and act like themselves. Others might have arrived primed and raring for conversation. In the same way, some wines need a little time to come alive.
Let’s go through wines by type to learn more.
Red Wine Need 15-30 Minutes
Ever noticed a feeling of bitterness or dryness when tucking into a Pinot Noir wine, Zweigelt, Red Zinfandel, Merlot wine, or other red blend wines? That sensation is due to tannins, a naturally derived compound that packs a punch of both flavor and texture.3 Knowing how to serve pinot noir or other red wines is important because the tannins are the main reason to let red wine breathe
15 to 30 minutes of breathing time can eliminate intense or astringent flavors that result from the presence of tannins. With more tannic reds, the more tannins require a longer time for aerating wine.
A note about wine age: Too much aeration may degrade the flavor profile of many older vintages. In other words, don’t leave that precious Col Solare Red Blend 2005 decanting in the kitchen for too long.
White Wines Need 0-15 Minutes
Now, what does white wine taste like? With its minerally brightness and round flavors, a glass of white wine can elegantly enhance any cheese board or seafood sampler. But the things that make whites so special—that fruity freshness or oaky notes—can be diluted or washed out by the presence of too much oxygen.
In other words: Aerate white wines for zero to 15 minutes.
Now, there’s a massive difference between “some breathing time” and “no breathing time at all.” So how long should wine breathe if it’s a Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, or Vouvray?
Here, we recommend using your best judgment. If the wine has earthy flavors that need oxygen to develop, start with ten minutes and go from there. Lighter, brighter whites may be good to go from the bottle.
Sparkling Wines Need 0-10 Minutes
Those bubbles present in Champagnes and Vouvrays can give any party a little lift. But too much oxygen can leave them flat, spoiling the effervescent effect.
If your sparkling wine smells sulfurous (think whiffs of rotten eggs), letting it breathe for up to ten minutes can remove that unpleasant aroma. Otherwise, you’re free to get the party started.
Other Aeration Information
Noted above, learning to let wine breathe is an art and a science, and it may require some experimentation. Here are our top tips to become an expert, fast.
How Do I Aerate Wine?
Just opening the bottle exposes the wine to some oxygen, allowing breathing to occur. Even better ways to aerate include:
- Pouring the wine back and forth between two containers
- Decanting the wine
- Swirling the wine in a glass
In a hurry? No problem. Pour your wine into a blender and let it rip for 15-30 seconds. While it may not seem like the classiest way to aerate, it garners a similar effect in under a minute.
How Do I Know If I’ve Properly Aerated My Wine?
Just as there’s no one wine to rule them all, the answer to “how long do you let wine breathe” depends. If you’re struggling to determine if you’ve aerated enough, take these steps to gain some clues:
- When in doubt, pour one out – If you’re aiming to decant for 30 minutes, try a small sample before you get started, and then another at the halfway point. This helps you understand what tannins or sulfites taste like before and after exposure to oxygen.
- The nose knows – Aroma plays a huge part in wine tasting. Wine is as much an olfactory experience as about taste. If you smell sulfur, that’s a good sign to aerate. Similarly, if you smell nothing at all, a few moments of letting the wine settle in the presence of oxygen will bring out those flavors you paid for.
- Not all wines need to breathe – Some wine just doesn’t benefit from aeration. Use the guidelines above, but don’t feel like five minutes is better than none if the wine tastes great out of the bottle.
Discover and Aerate Great Wines with Barbank
It’s said that no two wines are perfectly alike. Climate, grape varieties, and production techniques are just a few factors that contribute to the limitless offering to be discovered and enjoyed. But not every wine will reveal its secrets right away.
This is why it’s key to learn how to aerate your favorite wine.
Just as your wine can benefit from contact with oxygen, so too can your knowledge and enjoyment of wine get a lift from exposure to the best bottles. At Barbank, our rare and premium wines offer luxury and experience, delivered straight to your home through our online liquor delivery. From Albariños to Zinfandels, we’re fully stocked and ready for your perusal.
- Gallup. What Percentage of Americans Drink Alcohol? https://news.gallup.com/poll/467507/percentage-americans-drink-alcohol.aspx
- ThoughtCo. Why Aerate Wine? Science Behind Letting Wine Breathe. https://www.thoughtco.com/why-you-should-aerate-wine-4023740
- Wine Country. What Are Tannins? https://www.winecountry.com/blog/what-are-tannins/