The science behind aerating your wine

Before you take a sip of that wine, you may want to consider letting it breathe for a bit. Now, the idea of letting the wine "breathe" first might sound weird but it's actually a common practice in the wine industry. This is what you call aerating wine and there's actually some science to back it up.

What does aerating wine mean?

The term "aerating" is commonly used in the wine industry and refers to the process of exposing the wine to the air so the wine flavours can be released and mixed together with oxygen, developing a more complex taste.

Aerating wine when you're pairing your food may be optional but some people actually prefer to aerate their wine before enjoying it. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Swirl the wine in your glass to mix it with the oxygen in the air. Some people prefer to dip their glasses in cold water first for a minute or two to get the glass temperature down before aerating the wine.

  2. Another way to aerate wine is to pour it into a decanter, which is a wine carafe with a large bowl at the top to hold the wine. These are often made from glass or crystal and have a long, narrow neck to prevent the flavour from being released while pouring.

What is the science behind aerating wine?

The science behind aerating wine has to do with the decanting process. A bottle of wine is essentially just a glass jar, with the fresh wine and some alcohol preserved inside.

The sugar in the wine is mostly the alcohol too, and it's the sugar that turns into alcohol during fermentation and eventually prevents the wine from going bad.

When wine is poured and exposed to oxygen, it begins to oxidise. Red wines are particularly sensitive to oxidation and will change in colour, become dull and even start to smell and taste like vinegar.

But as wines oxidise, they also begin to develop other flavours and gain complexity. This is why some people prefer to aerate their wines before drinking them and why some people like to use ageing techniques.

Why should you aerate your wine?

So, now you might be wondering why you should even bother to aerate your wine? Well, there are a few reasons.

  1. Aerating your wine allows it to develop its full flavour. If you're enjoying red wine and you don't aerate it, you may notice that it's a bit weak and has a shorter lifespan than you would like.
  1. Aerating wine allows the alcohol taste to subside. If you're drinking red wine and you don't aerate it, you might notice that it has a bit of a bite or a burn to it. This is simply because of its alcohol content.
  1. Aerating wine allows it to breathe and develop complexity. As the wine oxidises, it goes through a long process of creating and releasing other flavours and complexities. These flavours are only released once the wine is aerated, which is what some people prefer.

Aerating your wine isn't just something people do to make themselves look fancy or to show off. By aerating your wine, you'll be able to enjoy it more and also notice some of its more complex flavours. 

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