If you've recently bought red Bordeaux wine and are preparing to drink it, you'll want to know how and why the wine needs to "breathe." For many aficionados, allowing the red wine to breathe is an important part of the process of preparing to drink it. Understanding the process of allowing the wine to breathe will help you enjoy the drinking experience.

Why should you let your red Bordeaux wine breathe?

Many red Bordeaux wines are very tannic (meaning, contain many tannins). Tannins are complex polymers contained in the grapes themselves that give the wine a complexity of flavor. However, wines that contain tannins can be described as "mouth puckering" if the tannins themselves are not ripe. Ripe tannins will give the wine a velvety smooth texture, while non-ripe tannins have a harshness that can be disturbing to wine drinkers. Allowing the wine to breathe can ripen the tannins and improve the flavor of the wine.

What can you do to allow the red wine to breathe?

Red wine needs air exposure in order to breathe. After sitting for many years in a wine bottle, many red wines need only a little bit of exposure to air in order to breathe properly. To help your red wine breathe, follow these tips:

  • Pour the red wine into a decanter before pouring it into a glass. Allow the wine to sit in the decanter for a while. The act of pouring the wine into the decanter will have exposed it to air, which will help the wine breathe.
  • Use proper red wine glasses while drinking the wine. Red wine glasses have a wide, round bowl shape and a wide opening at the top. This allows the air to mix with the wine better than white wine glasses.
  • Swirl the wine gently in the glass before drinking. This will help expose the wine to air while it's in the glass.

How long does the red wine need to breathe?

Check the age of the wine. Young red wine (produced in the past 7 years) will need to breathe in the decanter for an hour or more. Older red wines will need approximately half an hour, and some very old red wines will not need to breathe at all. If you're uncertain as to whether or not a very old red wine should be aerated, talk to the wine seller. Representatives from the seller should know the tannin content and will be able to give you advice.

For information on Bordeaux wines, contact a wine seller like JJ Buckley Fine Wines.