What are the benefits of allowing wine to breathe?
Fantastic things happen when a wine breathes, or is exposed to oxygen. Tannins can soften, aromatic volatize, and in general a wine can seem to blossom.
For reasons not exactly known to me, each grape variety seems to have its own ideal system of oxygenation. For example, the old Barolos I drink seem to benefit from what is known as slow oxygenation, or Slow O.
Slow O simply means pulling the cork, and perhaps pouring off a bit of wine to increase the surface area and then letting the wine oxygenate very slowly. If the wine is middle-aged, a decant off the sediment can frequently wake the wine up and reveal the benefits of the Slow O process. I’m going to follow this up with a broader article on allowing your wines to breathe, but as a general rule, young wines can only benefit from it, and it seems to help many older wines, though the window during which they drink well might be significantly compressed by decanting.