Wine News: The effect of oxygen on wine
"I am often asked about letting wine “breathe.” Is it necessary and, if so, how do you know which wines and for how long?
The answers vary, and the question has its basis in the positive and negative effects of oxygen on wine. Oxygen is one of the enemies of wine and needs to be understood.
Wine “breathing” refers to opening the wine some time prior to serving it and allowing it to come into contact with air. This is either done in the glass or by pouring the wine into a decanter or carafe in which the wine is allowed some time to sit before it’s served.
Because one of the enemies of wine is oxygen, this idea of the wine “breathing” can seem to be a paradox. Why would you expose wine to air if oxygen is its enemy? Any wine that has been opened begins to react immediately with oxygen.
Still or sparkling wines will become worthless in anywhere from 24 hours to about five days after opening, regardless of refrigeration, recorking, etc.
Once the cork is out or compromised, the process begins and it cannot be stopped. That “problem” keeps some people from drinking much wine.
White wines will generally not need to “breathe,” although very good whites, such as Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, may develop more complexity and character over time in the glass. Sparkling wines do not benefit from breathing and will go downhill fast if left sitting.
Some red wines that are young and very tannic do benefit from “breathing,” however. Tannin is a bitter substance found in the skins and seeds of the grapes, and the time spent “breathing” will help to soften the tannins so you won’t get a bitter wine face. If you are drinking a young, full-bodied red like a high quality cabernet sauvignon or an Italian red such as a Barolo or Brunello, decanting an hour or more before serving is a good idea. In the case of most Barolos under 6 years old and many good Bordeaux, it is not just a good idea, it may be necessary in order to enjoy the wine."
Full article here.
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Posted by Jennifer at March 27, 2006 5:06 PM