To Breathe or Not to Breathe

By October 1, 2010Wines
A decanter with a red wine glass
Image via Wikipedia

I am not a big believer of breathing- that is, letting wines breathe. I know, I know, there are many people who swear by the value of opening a bottle-usually a red wine- and letting it breathe. I have heard of people opening their wines 24 hours before!

I did an event years ago where we tasted the same wine-an older Barolo- under 4 different conditions: 24 hours before, 8 hours before, 1 hour before and right before tasting. The participants tasted the wines blind, not knowing which wine was which. After the voting, we revealed the wines and the most popular wine was the wine opened right at the tasting.

Last Monday 14 members of Wine Lovers of Connecticut duplicated this event. We served 4 bottles of Cascina Ballarin Tre Ciabot from the 2001 vintage. Although not a high end Barolo, this wine did garner a 2 bottle award from Tre Bicchieri and it was from a very good year. The bottles were opened again 24 hours, 8 hours, 1 hour before and right at the tasting. What were the results?

Unfortunately one of the wines, the one that was opened 8 hours before, was corked. Several participants immediately detected it and those who didn’t had a great learning experience- which is why we do these tastings: to learn and have fun.

So what were the results: 11 of the 14 selected as their favorite the bottle that was opened right at the tasting. I wasn’t in that number; I picked the wine that was opened 1 hour before.

Does this prove anything? I think it validates my premise that opening a bottle well before you drink it does not add tasting value.

Now, the big question is: would decanting the wine- ie pouring it from the bottle into a proper decanter, which would expose the wine to a lot more oxygen,- make a difference? I guess the only way to prove that is to do that tasting under blind conditions. If we do, I’ll report the results.

PS I don’t think the results will be different.

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