Bentley’s Grill Wine Steward Mark Jacklich is continuing his studies with the Court of Master Sommeliers through 2012. In addition, he plans to spend a lot of time working with Jim Bernau’s team at Willamette Valley Vineyards and learn more about the process from grapes to wine full circle. Mark is eager to share his knowledge with you in an educational series we call: Wine Notes with Mark. Enjoy!
Letting wine breathe, decant, or aerate is simply allowing your wine to be exposed to the surrounding air. By allowing wine to mix and mingle with the air, the wine will “open up” and the wine’s aroma will be more present. The flavor profile will soften and mellow, and the overall flavor characteristics should improve.
Red wines benefit more than whites from this however there are a few whites that can evolve when allowed to open up (mainly Chardonnay). As a good rule of thumb, most wines need a good 15 minutes to let them show their character. With a young wine that has a high level of tannins such as Cabernet and Merlot, it could be upwards of 30-45 before it starts giving you it’s best.
A lot of times in the restaurant an experienced patron will order a white wine as a starter and a big bodied Cabernet at the same time. While the guests are enjoying the light, refreshing starter, the other will be opened, decanted, and ready by the time dinner is served. Some believe that simply pulling the cork on a bottle is enough, but with the limited amount of wine-surface to air, a decanter can be your best friend.
A decanters main purpose is to allow a wine to have more contact with air. It’s other purpose is reducing the amounts of sediment that make it into a glass by usually having a long tapered neck that leaves the sediment in the decanter.
If you’re at home, a juice pitcher will work just as well. There are small “use as you go” decanting tools such as a decanting pour spout or a table top decanter that you pour the wine through and into the glass.
These achieve similar effects by allowing the wine to swirl and breathe before even hitting the glass. There is a type of glass on the market now that has an aerator directly in the middle of the glass that you pour your wine into and (if you have good aim) will get your wine opened nicely.
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