Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Sometimes we hear that a wine that "needs six hours of breathing." How do they know that six hours is the right number? Why not one hour, or three, or eight? They would have to taste the wine every hour and take notes like: four hours--good, five hours--better, six hours--even better, seven hours--not as good, eight hours--getting worse.
—Craig H., Lancaster, Pa.
Believe it or not, there are winemakers who are curious enough to do exactly what you just described. Whether or not the recommendation was created with a stopwatch, please don't act as if your bottle of wine is a ticking time bomb. "Needs six hours of breathing" says they believe the wine will improve with aeration—more than you'd get by just cracking the bottle open, but less than letting it sit overnight. I know it's tempting to seek absolutes on matters of wine, but it's pretty darn subjective, especially on topics like this.
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