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Years ago, I was working my very first wine tasting and was concerned about impressing my bosses with my speed and fluidity while opening bottles. I visited table after table, opening bottles before returning to them to push the corks back in. I figured the doors didn’t open for another half hour, so better to keep the wine fresh, right?
My very educated, very scary boss strode up to the table and said, “No, no, Jennifer! Wine and air are friends! Open up all of these bottles and let them breathe!”
So I did.
I was confused at first; when you learn about wine and wine storage, you read again and again about the three bullies of wine: air, light, and vibration. That’s true, at least until you pop the cork.
That night, I learned that air is wine’s “frenemy.”
While wine is slowly, gently aging in its bottle, air is the enemy, which is why we lay wines on their sides to stop the cork from drying out. However, when it’s time to drink, wine and air become the perfect partners.
Air helps the wine bloom. Think of a rose. It’s much easier to smell the bouquet of a rose when it’s open rather than when it’s still a bud. This is the same with wine. There are many ways to get air into wine faster, which will speed up this process. Aerators are one of them.
When you pour wine through an aerator, it draws air in, merging it with the wine. This has the same effect as leaving the bottle open for about two hours or decanting it for one.
Have you ever stuck your nose into a glass only to receive the strong smell of alcohol or rotten eggs? Aeration, even with a decanter, will help these negative components evaporate faster, leaving only the floral, fruity, or spicy aromas of the wine.
I have two aerators at home. One is a bottle-top style called Soireé, which you insert into the bottle while pouring. The other is called the Vinturi. This system stands over your glass, allowing wine to flow through it as you pour. I like both, and they both work well, but the Soiree is more convenient and about half the price.
Unlike the Vinturi, the Soiree works by forcing the wine to the sides of the bulb, getting more air to the surface area of the glass of wine poured. It looks a little silly, but you must completely invert the bottle to get the proposed effect. With the Vinturi, you have to be careful not to pour too fast, and you need a steady hand since you have to hold the Vinturi over the wine glass. The exception is if you buy the added tower, which helps a lot but becomes a bigger item to store.
I was very impressed the first time I actually noticed a difference between wine that was straight from the bottle and wine that had been poured through an aerator. I had opened a bottle of Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 for a party and found it to be tight and acidic. With many glasses to pour, I didn’t get proper time to see how it would open up in the bottle. Two weeks later, I happened to be at my sister’s house and they were about to serve the same exact wine. I had just gotten my brother-in-law the Vinturi for Christmas and suggested we should use it. It made a tremendous difference. The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon went from tight and acidic to lush, bold and robust. After that, I was sold.
Please let me know how your first experience with an aerator went in a comment below!
– Jennifer Laurie