Wine is a popular and important beverage that accompanies and enhances a wide range of European and Mediterranean-style cuisines, from the simple and traditional to the most sophisticated and complex. Wine is important in cuisine not just for its value as a beverage, but as a flavor agent, primarily in stocks and braising, since its acidity lends balance to rich savory or sweet dishes. Red, white, and sparkling wines are the most popular, and are known as light wines because they are only 10–14% alcohol-content by volume. Apéritifdessert wines contain 14–20% alcohol, and are sometimes fortified to make them richer and sweeter. and
Some wine labels suggest opening the bottle and letting the wine "breathe" for a couple of hours before serving, while others recommend drinking it immediately. Decanting—the act of pouring a wine into a special container just for breathing—is a controversial subject in wine. In addition to aeration, decanting with a filter allows one to remove bitter sediments that may have formed in the wine. Sediment is more common in older bottles but younger wines usually benefit more from aeration.
During aeration, the exposure of younger wines to air often "relaxes" the flavors and makes them taste smoother and better integrated in aroma, texture, and flavor. Older wines generally fade, or lose their character and flavor intensity, with extended aeration. Despite these general rules, breathing does not necessarily benefit all wines. Wine should be tasted as soon as it is opened to determine how long it should be aerated, if at all.