Time to gather your friends, put your feet up and unwind—with wine! Here’s a snappy trick you can do anywhere to make that bottle taste even better.
You’ve probably heard the term “letting the wine breathe.” And while you might equate these words with Lifetime movie heroes or real-life wine snobs, there’s a great scientific reason to give your wine a little air. Air helps it “open up” in wine parlance—and that’s just like it sounds. Wine that has breathed a little is more expressive, buoyant and fully itself. Compare that to “closed wine,” which might be rough around the edges, boring, brooding or even kinda stinky.
Exposing the wine to air smoothes it out, making it smell and taste more harmonious and just plain better. To help it breathe, you could pour it off into a fine crystal decanter, a durable lab beaker like my engineer friend, or into a stylish aerator like my gadget-adoring neighbor. Some Internet proponents even give the libation a quick whir through the blender. But that sounds messy—and loud.
My scientifically based no-mess, and totally free, top secret for instantly improving any wine?
Pour off a glass, re-cork the bottle and shake it up. That’s all there is to it!
Pour off enough to reach the bottle’s shoulder, which is where it broadens out from the neck. This creates a greater surface area of wine that’s exposed to the air. And since air is a great way to open up a wine, when you re-cork the bottle and shake it up, you’re quickly exposing all of the wine to that good air as you shake, not just the surface, which is why traditional breathing (read: waiting around) takes so long. Because you don’t need a decanter or other tool, you can do this one on picnics, at the beach, on the go…it’s the single fastest way to make wine taste better! (And if you don’t wind up finishing the whole bottle, use the rest in these wine-infused recipes.)
“Wait a minute,” you might say—as I did, when I first saw a wine shop owner execute this trick. “Shouldn’t you treat a wine with greater care than shaking it up?” Not at all—at least not the young wines (under five years old) that we mostly drink in the United States. In fact, most wine in America is consumed the same day it’s purchased! (If you’ll be keeping your bottles for awhile, here’s the right way to store wine.)
And while old wines develop sediment as they age over time, young ones are basically like grape juice—there’s no unpleasant sediment to worry about in the bottle, and they need no special care. In fact, because they are so young, a good shake helps open them up quickly, making them tastier to drink.
So next time you’re sharing a bottle with friends, go ahead and impress ’em with this simple trick (I call it the poor man’s decanter). It can also be fun to taste-test the wine before and after a vigorous shake. Or, just keep this little trick your own secret to making wine taste better and let them wonder just how you do it.