If you love the ceremony surrounding wine drinking, you’re not alone.
One of the most alluring elements is decanting or aerating your wine. Today, we’ll give you the low-down on why you need to do this, and we’ll show you how to go about aerating your wine for best results.
Let’s get started with some basics, then.
What Is a Wine Aerator?
In the simplest terms, a wine aerator is any device that exposes your wine to more air than it would otherwise encounter through the bottle being opened and the wine poured.
We’ll be walking you through aerating wines in a number of ways, but the underlying principle of aeration is broadly similar. As you pour your wine into a separate container, so it increases the amount of surface area exposed to the air. As the oxidation process begins, so the wine starts interacting with more oxygen than normal.
When wine comes into contact with oxygen, the tannins in that wine will be softened. The ethanol in the wine has a medicinal taste which is flattened out after aeration. Aerating your wine will also help to see off those sulfur fumes as the sulfites evaporate away.
The majority of wines taste and smell better after aeration.
Now, you can achieve some of the requisite effects by simply pouring your wine into a glass. A standard wine glass performs some of the effects of aeration. Unfortunately, the glass is designed to get liquid into your mouth without spillage. It’s not designed to maximize a wine’s surface area to the fullest.
Now you know what a wine aerator is in general terms, what does wine aeration achieve specifically?
What Does a Wine Aerator Do?
All wine aerators perform the same simple role: they force your wine to come into contact with more air so the processes of evaporation and oxidation are both accelerated. This is achieved as the wine is send at speed through a funnel with pressurized oxygen.
Wine is composed of many compounds that are volatile to chemical reaction. When you alter the levels of oxygen unnaturally, you’ll get a similar reaction to the chemical reaction that kicks in when young fruit ripens. Ethanol, also known as alcohol, is one such compound. When wine undergoes the process of aeration, some of the ethanol content is converted to acetic acid and acetaldehyde. This alone will tamp down some of the unwanted medicinal or vegetal characteristics from your wine resulting in a softer taste.
Unstable compounds like ethanol and sulfites will start rapidly evaporating as wine aerators efficiently allow this to happen. Although both of these compounds are crucial to the production of wine, you can always cut some away at this stage with a positive effect on taste and aroma.
What you’re doing when you aerate your wine is to make the very best of what’s on offer. The acceleration of evaporation helps to cut right back on those sulfuric and medicinal elements that can negatively impact the flavor and aroma of your wine.
If you decide to decant your wine – more on that shortly – you’ll also find it much easier to serve mature reds without any of the sediment that could otherwise make its way into your cup. If you decant your wine into a transparent pouring vessel, you’ll much more readily spot any offending debris. Beyond this, some decanters have lips designed to trap sediment when you’re pouring. As such then, wine decanters don’t filter your wine of sediment, but they certainly make it easier to avoid having any in your cup.
Right then, a look at why you should aerate wine in a bit more depth next.
Why Should You Aerate Wine?
When you aerate wine, you’ll typically enhance what’s already in place while simultaneously removing some rough, unwanted elements. You’ll benefit from a more rounded and complex flavor profile after aeration. You’ll also find the overall bouquet is enhanced.
- Ratchets up the flavor profile: With so much of the sense of taste tied up in smell – up to 80% according to some experts – you should notice a marked improvement in the bouquet of your wine after exposing it to more oxygen. Cutting back on the unwanted compounds in the wine also works wonders for the end taste
- Enhances the wine’s bouquet: Ethanol and sulfites, as mentioned, are compounds vital for wine production. Ethanol has a sharp medicinal scent while sulfites reek of rotten eggs. When you aerate your wine, you’ll find that both of these noxious elements are tempered and to some extent neutralized
- Makes cheaper wine seem much more drinkable: By aerating your wine, you’ll make a poor wine taste drinkable and a mediocre wine taste pretty impressive.
So far, so good.
What type of wine do you need to aerate in the first place?
Is It Necessary to Aerate White Wine?
You can aerate white wine but not all of these wines will respond well to the process.
The heavier the white wine, and the more it resembles a red, the more it will benefit from aeration. Lighter white wines don’t need this treatment. If they are younger whites, they won’t have the tannins and they won’t need the same tempering of flavor or aroma.
This brings us to the main event and those wines that firmly benefit from aeration, notably rich and complex reds.
Is It Necessary to Aerate Red Wine?
The vast bulk of red wines respond positively to being aerated.
Young red wines should always be aerated. These have not been aged long enough for their tannins to settle. Aerating the wine gets rid of at least some unwanted chemicals and mitigates this to some extent.
Red wine that’s rich in sediment also benefits strongly from aeration. The tannins have bound together in mature wine. The excess of these tannins can result in a bitter taste so counter this by using a wine aerator.
Now comes the fun part, then…
How do you aerate wine the easy way?
How To Aerate Wine
You have several methods of aerating wine.
If you do nothing else at all, you can perform a primitive form of aeration by simply swilling your wine around your glass a few times. This will at least increase the wine’s surface area slightly while also encouraging evaporation and oxidation.
Better yet, use a wine decanter, a vessel expressly designed to effectively aerate your wine.
A wine aerator does the same job as a decanter but with the addition of pressurized oxygen into the mix.
You can find wine aerators in two basic forms, handheld and bottle stopper variants.
- Handheld wine aerator: This small contraption is placed or held on top of your wine glass. Then, as you pour your wine into the glass, it passes first through an aerating chamber. This performs at least some of what you need from the process of aeration. You could also use a wine glass equipped with pour lines here. As you pour your wine, do so very gently. Bear in mind that wine will usually come flowing out of the aerator slower than if manually poured. Take account for this and you’ll avoid any spillage. Neglect this and you could end up with wine all over the counter
- Bottle stopper or wine pourer aerator: This is fitted directly onto an open wine bottle. The stopper allows the wine to run through an aerator before exiting into the glass. Using this type of device is literally as simple as pouring
Learning how to decant wine might take a long time to master, but it takes no time or effort to get up and running.
If you decide that you want to use a wine aerator, come back soon when we’ll be reviewing the best aerators in 2020.
How about if you want to decant your wine, though?
When you do this properly, you’ll enhance both the flavor and aroma of your wine. You can also dramatically reduce the chance of sediment ending up in your cup.
You should think about how wine is stored before breaking out your decanter. Chances are, you’ve stored your wine bottle on its side. You should allow the bottle to stand upright for 12 hours or so before serving, though.
There are 2 main methods of decanting wine:
- Regular decanting
- Splash decanting
You decant wine the traditional way by pouring it into a dedicated decanter, pouring slowly and without too much splashing.
You can choose to set down the decanter on the side and pour into it, or you can hold the decanter in one hand and your wine bottle in the other hand.
By slowly pouring, you’ll retain the fragile structure and texture of older wines.
The key advantage of decanting wine this way is how easily it allows you to spot sediment and avoid this ending up in your glass and spoiling your drink.
When you decant your wine, try using a flame directed toward the neck of the bottle. This will make it even easier for you to spot any rogue sediment and to prevent this from ending up spoiling your drink.
This type of decanting is sometimes referred to as quick splash decanting. To achieve this, you simply tipped the bottle vertically then pour using the force of gravity. The wine comes out into a decanter and then splashes off the bottom of this vessel at force.
This method of decanting wine is most effective if you have tannic red wines that have not been aged for long. Avoid shock decanting for older red wines with more sediment.
With shock decanting, you’ll aggressively expose the wine to oxygen which briskly accelerates the process of oxidation.
This style of decanting is very similar to wine aerating.
OK, we’ll round out today’s guide with a collection of the most frequently asked questions about wine aerators.
1) Does Pinot Grigio need aerating?
Not really, no. This enduringly popular light white has a very low concentration of tannins. You’ll reap little benefit from aerating Pinot Grigio.
2) Do rose wines need aerating?
Most do not call for aerating, although some dryer roses like Provencal might respond well to brief aeration. Swilling this wine around in the glass should be enough to get the job done.
3) Should I aerate Cabernet Sauvignon?
If you’re a fan of this punchy red, take the time to aerate it before serving. Dry, strong, and high in tannins, you should give this wine time to breathe and you’ll enjoy a much nicer overall taste and aroma.
4) Do all wines need aerating?
No, they don’t. White wines and any wines low in tannin levels really don’t need any aerating at all. Some roses and some reds can also taste great before aeration.
5) Is it worth aerating my wine?
As long as it falls within the above categories, you’ll notice strong benefits if you aerate your wine before serving.
Well, if you started out today with no clue about whether you really need to decant your wine, hopefully you now have the answer to all your questions.
Wine aerating and wine decanting are pretty similar in terms of what they hope to achieve and the bottom line is this: exposing your wine, especially red wine, to extra oxygen has a number of positive benefits. You’ll make a bad wine drinkable, a good wine better, and a great wine truly memorable if you take the time and trouble to aerate it before drinking.
Bookmark BriccoWine before you go and be sure to pop back soon. We’ve got a busy content calendar over the coming months and we wouldn’t want you to miss out. See you soon!