Photo of Brent Lello - Yass Valley Wine Advocate

Brent Lello – Yass Valley Wine Columnist

You may have heard the expression “letting the wine breathe”. But, unfortunately, in these days of right-now wine consumption, the practice of breathing or aerating a wine before drinking has become a rare practice. However, there are advantages to letting wines breathe, and it doesn’t need a load of old pomp and bluster.

Before tackling the ‘how’, let’s look at the ‘why’.

Aerating is fundamentally about introducing oxygen to the wine – hence the expression ‘breathing’. The oxygen allows the wine to develop its flavours and characters, peaking the wine-drinking experience. This practice will benefit most red wines, especially bigger, bolder, and more youthful red wines. A young Shiraz or Cabernet will most definitely shape up a little better in the glass after decanting for up to an hour. Any more time than that, and you might start to lose the flavours that you wanted to develop in the first place.

Lighter styles of red, such as Pinot Noir, can also improve by decanting, but perhaps leaving for only 30 minutes or so before drinking.

Be careful with older and more delicate red wines, as these can lose flavour and complexity quickly. Older wines may develop sediment in the bottle, so decanting provides a way of removing the clear wine from the sediment so that you are not left with a muddy puddle in the bottom of your glass. Just don’t leave it too long before drinking.

Some white wines might shape up better with a decant, such as Chardonnay, but I think the benefits are not as strong as they are for the reds.

And onto the ‘how’. There are all sorts of cunning contraptions available, ranging in price from cheerfully cheap to eye-watering expensive, but they all do the same thing. While I have expensive crystal decanters at hand, they are mainly for show these days. The most common way I use is by pouring the wine into a spare bottle or jug through a kitchen funnel, stopping the pour short if I see any sediment.

I then rinse the original bottle, drain it well and pour the wine back into its original receptacle and Bob’s your mother’s brother. There are also aerating devices that you can pour wine through straight into your glass.

As the wine passes through the device, the air is slurped and sucked in, aerating the wine directly into your glass.

If you’re yet to be convinced, try it out for yourself. Open a bottle, pour a glass straight away, then double-decant the rest of the bottle and pour into another glass. Taste both – it might just be a breath of fresh air!