Why Does Aerating Wine Make It Taste Better?

How to transform your drinking experience

So you’ve probably seen fancy wine decanters in movies, or have heard an associate at your favorite wine store mention that you should aerate your wine before serving. Even though decanting or aerating your wine may seem strange (what does that word even mean?) or a little too high-maintenance for your wine-drinking habits, taking this easy step can transform your drinking experience,

This step can make your favorite (or least favorite) bottle taste better with just a minimal effort. Keep reading to learn this quick tip to upgrade your wine in an hour or less.

What does it mean to aerate wine?

Technically, aerating wine means that you are exposing the wine to air–so technically you start aerating wine as soon as you open the bottle. When your wine mingles with the air, it begins to oxidize, which allows the full flavors of the wine to express themselves. At the same time, some of the harsher, undesirable flavors will evaporate, softening your wine and making it more delicious.

What tools can I use to aerate my wine?

Technically, your wine starts aerating the moment you pull the cork, but the amount of air seeping from the bottleneck won’t do much to aerate your wine unless you leave it there for a long while–and who wants to wait?

The most common tool used to speed up the process is a decanter: a wide-bottomed glass pitcher which exposes the wine to the most amount of oxygen possible to speed up oxidation so you can start sipping sooner.

There are also some aerater tools you can purchase to pour your wine through that will soften the taste.

The need to aerate wine is also the reason why red wine glasses are typically designed with wider bowls–so if you don’t have a decanter on hand you can simply find the largest glasses you have, pour, and swirl away to aerate your wine and bring out it’s best flavors.

What types of wine should be aerated?

As a general rule, you should aerate most red wines. Heartier reds such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Sirah will benefit the most from the aeration process. It is not necessary to aerate most white wines, but if you find your favorite Chardonnay is tasting a little unpleasantly funky, aerating the bottle for 30 minutes or so will help tone down the earthy flavor.

The length of time a wine should be aerated depends on the grape and style. You can look up the type of wine you’re about to pop with a reference such as Wine Folly, which will tell you the recommended time to aerate or decant your bottle before serving. Here is an simple guide to give you an idea of how much time you should plan ahead so your bottle can be flavorful and ready to drink by the time the occasion strikes:

Decant or aerate light-bodied red wines for 20-30 minutes. Light-bodied reds include:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Beaujolais
  • Zweigelt
  • Gamay

Decant or aerate medium-bodied red wines for 30-60 minutes. Medium-bodied reds include:

  • Merlot
  • Zinfandel
  • Malbec
  • Tempranillo
  • Barbera
  • Grenache

Decant or aerate full-bodied red wines at least an hour. Full-bodied reds include:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Petit Sirah
  • Nebbiolo
  • Syrah/Shiraz
  • Bordeaux

Shop aerating tools and wine products at the mercantile

The Mercantile carries multiple barware items that can be used to enhance your next glass (or bottle) of wine! 

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