Do I need to let a wine "breathe," or does oxygen make it spoil?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I have been asked to try out a new product designed to preserve wine. It is an ingenious way of allowing wine out of the bottle while the air going into the bottle fills a displacement bladder, thus keeping the air away from the wine and therefore keeping it from spoiling. The problem I have is that this seems contradictory to the advice of letting a wine breathe, or decanting, where oxygen is encouraged to get into the wine. Am I missing the point?

—Rich, Camden, N.J.

Dear Rich,

Sometimes oxygen is desirable and sometimes it's not. After you open a bottle, you may want to help the wine "breathe" by swirling it in the glass or decanting it to expose it to oxygen, which will help develop the bouquet, soften the taste and let the wine open up. But when you're trying to preserve wine, a copious amount of oxygen is something you want to avoid. If you can't finish a bottle and want to return to it later, then you're back to trying to find ways to eliminate the oxygen so the wine doesn't oxidize too much. The bladder gizmo may come in handy for that.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

Does Pinot Noir come in both red and white versions? Are they the same grape?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how red wines get their color. (Hint: It's not …

Jun 22, 2022

If you're supposed to hold a wineglass by the stem, why are stemless glasses so popular?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert Dr. Vinny explains the pros and cons of stemless …

Jun 13, 2022

How much do our taste buds influence our perception of wine?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert Dr. Vinny explains how taste sensitivity impacts our …

Jun 6, 2022

What's the shelf life of a box of wine?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, explains why box wines aren't meant to …

May 31, 2022

Should I refill my own wineglass, or ask the host or server to?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the etiquette or wine service, for hosts and for …

May 23, 2022

What’s the best way to remove the cork from an imperial (a 6-liter bottle of wine)?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains best practices for opening—and serving—large-for…

May 16, 2022