You know the deal, the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials can be tossed around. I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus – Wine Words Demystified!
This week’s word is breathe (a.k.a “aeration”)…
The process of intentionally exposing wine to oxygen to “open up” and soften it…as when a young wine is poured into a carafe or a decanter or even just swirled in the glass
There are two primary situations to let a wine “breathe” The first is part of the wine tasting process when you swirl the wine in the glass. Swirling the wine in the glass draws air into the wine. The mixture of the air and wine releases and intensifies (opens up) the aromas of the wine. Thereby allowing you to make a preliminary judgment about the wines aromas. Which is likely a harbinger for how the wine will taste since 80% of what we taste is attributable to what we smell.
The second reason is to “soften” a wine that is too tannic (the presence of tannic acid in the wine creates the perception of sandpaper on your tongue). The air reacts with the tannic acid can soften, or mellow the wine so the perception of tannins is lessened.
Mostly red wines need to “breathe” to improve (though some white wines may also benefit from breathing), especially young wines that tend to be more tannic like Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Nebbiolo.