Oenologie - Pourquoi faut-il laisser un vin s’ouvrir ? - Les Grappes

Why do you have to let a wine open?

"Have you ever thought of putting wine in a carafe? "We've all heard or said this sentence once. Here is what sounds obvious to every wine lover and consumer. But behind these usual gestures, there is an oenological explanation. Concretely: why do we have to decant a wine before serving it?

Decanting, opening, aerating a wine: this oenological jargon

As much as to say it, "to decant" is not a verb known from the Larousse. However, this verb, which is not referenced in French words, has indeed entered the everyday language, with a definition and synonyms:

Decanter = the action of putting a wine in a wine carafe, whose particular shape ensures optimal aeration.

Synonym of carafer = to aerate, to oxygenate, to open.

In other words, decanting a wine means aerating it, or more precisely, it is one way among others to aerate the wine. The purpose of aerating the wine is to bring it into contact with the air in order to allow the aromas to express themselves. In oenological jargon, we also say: "to open the wine".

Why is the wine "closed" or "open"?

This is the question that arises then, of course: if we have to open a wine before consumption, is it because the wine is "closed"? And yes, a "closed" wine is a real expression used by oenology professionals. The latter have not invented anything, they have simply reused the vocabulary, to imitate the perceptions and sensations felt during tasting. A wine can thus close itself, shut itself in, lock up its aromas and prevent them from expressing themselves. On tasting, the wine seems flat, neutral in aroma, without character.

This phenomenon, this closing of the wine on itself, is not systematic. It is generally encountered in the weeks following bottling, during which the wine enters a phase of discretion before opening again.

How to aerate a "closed" wine ?

The good news of all these explanations is that a closed wine contains many aromas and character, but it needs to be helped to reveal them. It is therefore necessary, by obvious opposition, to "open the wine", i.e. to air it, because to allow the wine to let itself be opened, it must be aerated, because in order to allow the wine to let itself be opened, it must be aerated.escape from our nose and mouth the aromas, it must be in contact, for a certain time, with oxygen. Here are some basic tips for aerating the wine.

  • All wines may need aeration, white, rosé or red, for a longer or shorter period of time.
  • The more tannic and concentrated the wines are, the longer the aeration.

There are several techniques for aerating a wine, from the simplest to the most technical.

  1. Uncork the bottle a few hours in advanceThe technique is very simple, and the surface area for aeration is limited, so there is no risk of altering your wine with poor aeration. Oxygenation is slow and progressive, delicate, it can nevertheless be insufficient for certain wines.
  2. Swirl the wine in its glassThis technique consists in gently turning the wine in its glass. Aeration in the glass is especially recommended as a technique for evaluating and diagnosing the degree of closure of the wine. It is also a sufficient technique for most white and rosé wines.
  3. Decanting the wineHere is the most known technique, recommended in particular for red wines. Wine decanters allow an important surface of contact between wine and oxygen in order to aerate the wine more quickly.
  4. Use an aerating cork:This is THE technique of the professional. These innovative corks all have different techniques allowing the aeration of the wine during the service, or just before.

In which cases is aeration of the wine not advisable?

But beware, not all wines need to be aerated. To understand this, let's come back one last time to the phenomenon of wine closure: young wines - which have just been bottled - close during a transitional phase. During this phase, the aeration of the wine is thus "a helping hand" to the revelation of the aromas. But when the wine ages, its oxygenation is irreversible. The aromas it loses will never come back.

So we don't aerate old vintages. Contact with air can quickly alter them because they are more fragile.

For other wines? To find out if the wine is closed, or just neutral aromatically, taste, aerate the wine in your glass and observe its evolution. The aromas reveal themselves little by little? The wine probably needs aeration. It's up to you to choose your technique.

Manon Mouly (for Les Grappes)

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