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How does your wine breathe?

Have you met someone who takes the cork out of the bottle, to let the wine breathe? Just taking the cork out is one of those urban myths generated during the 60’s and 70’s by wine drinkers who had heard that wine needed to breathe but really didn’t know what it meant.

Air cannot penetrate liquid, it has to be actively mixed. Therefore, taking the cork out allows the top 1ml of wine to breathe as this is the only part that is exposed to air.

To allow wine to breathe you need another vessel into which to pour the wine. You could use a bowl, but a decanter is much easier to pour and looks far more attractive.

Decanters were first created for the wealthy as wine was put into ugly glass jars or clay pots by the wine makers of the time. The wine bottle as we know it is a comparatively new design. In the best homes which were lucky enough to drink wine, the ugly flask was not deemed attractive enough for the table. Hence glass blowers were commissioned to make attractive wine serving vessels, into which the wine was decanted.

The other reason for removing the wine from its original container is because wine builds up sediment over time. Today, different wines create varying quantities of sediment depending on how the wine is made and for how long it is stored. Sediment will not harm you but is makes the wine look dirty and you taste it in the mouth.

Allowing wine to breathe means getting oxygen into the wine, allowing the wine molecules to expand, the tannin to oxidise and the aroma to develop. Very old wine should not be allowed to breathe for long at all as the molecules are fragile. Young wine will benefit from 60 – 90 minutes breathing. To aerate a wine well, vigorously pour the wine through a filtered funnel, splashing or breaking up the wine as it pours into a decanter. The idea is to coat every molecule with air.

The shape of a decanter makes no difference to the wine. It is the very act of pouring that makes all the difference. Buy a decanter on the basis of its aesthetic, ease of storage, how easy it is for you to pour and clean. Once the wine has settled in the decanter, only the surface of the wine will be exposed to the air, which is a very small amount of wine indeed.

I find the Riedel Sommeliers Decanter the easiest to pour, store, clean and the spiral around the neck catches the drips!

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