Letting Wine Breathe
You've heard the expression "letting wine breathe." It's just a fancy way of describing what happens when the wine meets the atmosphere of your dining room, kitchen or tailgate party. It absorbs a bit of oxygen, which softens and enhances its flavor profile.
Which wines need to breathe?
Red wines and young wines in general; powerful, tannin-rich varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel in particular. The younger the wine, the more it will benefit from exposure to air. The most tannic wines actually need several hours to breathe before they're ready to drink. A young Port that is poured just after breakfast will be just about ready by dinner time.
By the glass or by the bottle.
Just pulling the cork doesn't give wine enough breathing room. There are two solutions, and both work just fine.
• Pour the entire bottle into a wine carafe, a pitcher or any other tall glass container. If you like, you can pour it back into the bottle after it's finished aerating (around 20 minutes for most wines).
• Pour the wine into your guests' glasses and leave them out for a few minutes. The wider the glass, the less time you'll need to let the wine breathe.
By the way, don't let an old wine breathe for more than a couple of minutes. Like a master drawing exposed to the light, its complex flavors will quickly fade.
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