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Letting Wine Breathe: How it Works & Why it Matters

What does it mean to let wine breathe?

Very simply, letting wine breathe means pouring the wine in a glass or a decanter and allowing the oxygen in the air to interact with the wine. The exposure to the air begins the evaporation and oxidation process. This is important because evaporation allows the aromas and flavors in the wine to be released. It helps get all the kinks out.

Should you let ALL your wines breathe?

Pretty much.

When it comes to your reds, the amount of time the wine needs to breathe depends on its age. Young red wines, usually those under 5 or 6 years old, are strong in tannic acid and require 1 to 2 hours to breathe or open up. Mature red wines, generally those over 6 years old, are more mellow and need to breathe for approximately 30 minutes, if at all.

When it comes to white wines, opening the bottle will let the aromas and flavors open up. However, white wines should definitely be stored and served at a cooler temperature than red wines. So, I suggest you take your whites out of the refrigerator for a few minutes so they can breathe a little and warm up just a handful of degrees.

How to Let Wine Breathe

Just opening the wine and leaving it in the bottle won’t really do the trick. The opening and neck are so small that your wine isn’t going to be in contact with enough air in time for dinner. If you open it tonight and don't pour it, your wine may be ready for tomorrow morning’s breakfast.

There are three basic ways of letting a wine breathe, or exposing it to oxygen, before you drink it.

  1. Pour the wine in a glass and swirl it.
  2. Aerate the wine.
  3. Decant the wine.


This is a quick method. As the wine goes up the side of the glass, you increase the surface area that’s in contact with the air and it allows the wine to open up. For a brief demonstration, check out this clip from my YouTube video on Letting Wine Breathe.


Put simply, aeration is using a special device to allow more air to get to the wine. You can learn more about this approach in my YouTube video called "How to Aerate Wine: Make Wine Taste Great with this Quick & Easy Tip."


A decanter is a type of specialized pitcher designed to accelerate the breathing process. If you missed last week's blog post, I shared the basics of decanting. Check it out!

Welp, there you have it! Everything you need to know about letting your wine breathe. Well, almost everything. For more, check out my YouTube video below.

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