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How to aerate your wine

Par Daley Brennan

Whether slowly or rapidly, wine evolves when in contact with oxygen. This oxygenation can be either beneficial or catastrophic.

The first step of oxygenation is bottling. The cork allows aeration that is variable depending on the intended future of the wine; whether it is to be kept or consumed in the near future.

This is of course a generalisation, and, where possible, we recommend you follow the advice of your wine merchant or producer or even better, your own intuition. Your experience will be the best guidance.

You must not forget that the wine will aerate whilst in your glass as well as in the bottle or carafe during the tasting. The aeration time suggested is for before you serve the wine.

We recommend you use a carafe to aerate the wine, but failing that, pour some into a glass so that the neck of the bottle is empty and the surface area of the wine exposed to the air is maximised.

Apart from old vintages, airing a wine for twenty minutes won’t do it any harm. It should be sufficient for wines that are light, new or summery (Beaujolais, Anjou, Touraine, vins de pays or vins de table). The same goes for entry level wines, which are generally intended to be drunk immediately.

Half an hour is best for either more structured or more recent wines (three years or younger). This will allow many quality white wines to express themselves, as well as the majority of mid- range red wines (small Bordeaux châteaux, your average Burgundies and southern French wines).

For young wines (five years or younger) whose tannins are still tough (Crus Bourgeois, second wines from Bordeaux châteaux, Côtes du Rhône Villages, south-western wines, Burgundies), and new world wines, we recommend you leave them to aerate for forty-five minutes. The same applies to certain wines vinified through natural methods; leave them for a while and it will be well worth the wait.

For rich, tannic and concentrated wines, it is best to leave them for one to two hours. These are most often high class wines or ones with long barrel-ageing processes, as well as some white wines. This includes, but is not limited to, Crus Classés, Grands Crus, Premiers Crus, Spanish wines, Southern Italian wines, wines from the northern Rhône, and top range wines from the south of France. Some of these wines will need more than two hours, if they are still too young (less than 5 years old), or if it is a particularly rare wine, but your wine merchant should forewarn you in these cases.

 

Old vintages, namely those at full maturity or which have passed it, should have the least possible contact with the air. Some very old wines can change within a matter of twenty or so minutes. A short time in a carafe, however, will allow the separation of the wine from any potential sediment.

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