Letting a wine breathe means that you are exposing it to air. What you say? Why would I want to intentionally expose my wine to air, isn’t that the exact opposite of what to do to keep my wine drinkable? Well, yes and no. While we are making wine and bottling wine and storing wine, we want the wine to come into as little contact with air as possible because the oxygen begins to age the wine more rapidly than perhaps is best. However, right before drinking the wine, oxygen can be very helpful in ‘softening” the tannins and helping the wine to “open up”. Also, not all wines benefit from breathing. Most whites and blush wines just don’t need to breathe. If a wine needs no further aging it just doesn’t need to breathe, that’s why ‘breathing” and “decanting” are really saved for those wines that are heavy with tannins (typically red!)
Some people interpret “letting the wine breathe” to mean just uncorking the bottle and letting it sit open in advance of pouring. In truth, this will really do nothing to improve the wine because the neck of the bottle is just too small to really allow any meaningful amount of air to contact the wine. You are much better off just pouring a glass and swirling the wine around in the glass before drinking.
Here at The Stray Grape we “decant” our wines by the glass with the Decantus aerator. If you have not experienced what this process can do for a wine we will be more than happy to demonstrate for you! It is a great way to get the full flavor of a decanted wine without exposing the entire bottle to the oxygen. You can have a glass or two fully decanted and save the rest for later without worry of spoiling any remaining wine.