Wine aerators have become quite popular over the last few years. Matter of fact, I had never even heard of one until I received one as a birthday gift around two years ago. And I was really impressed with the way it could perk up a so-so bottle of wine in just a matter of seconds. What a cool contraption!
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with wine aerators, it is basically a device that you can use to quickly introduce oxygen into the wine and to smooth out that harsh alcohol taste often found in younger wines while also enhancing its aromas. It basically does the job of the classic decanter in a matter of seconds compared to 30 minutes to several hours. They are easy to use- mine can simply be inserted into the neck of the bottle and lets the wine circulate though before being poured into the glass. There are clear benefits to aerators but are they always the best route to take when decanting a wine?
During a recent wine class, the question on when to choose an aerator over a decanter came up. The instructor gave an interesting answer that went something like: “Aerators are sort of like the microwave version of a decanter. Sometimes, when you use a microwave to cook food, it tastes great. But there are other foods that clearly taste better slow cooked in the oven. Ask yourself - do I want a microwave version of this wine or not?”
Of course, this got me to thinking about conducting a little research. I whipped out my decanter, aerator and a wine glass for a side-by-side comparison to see which would come out on top. For the research, I decided to use a bottle of 2010 Alterra Cabernet, a young wine that I had tried before and knew it clearly benefitted from a little breathing time. What follows are the notes from my highly scientific experiment (you did catch the sarcasm there, right?):
6:30 PM: First taste right out of the bottle (no decanter or aerator)
Tasting Notes: Very abrasive – high level of alcohol is apparent. Very little tannin, slight cherry flavor. Overall, very difficult to drink.
6:35 PM: Poured some of the Alterra into the decanter and set aside.
6:38 PM: Poured wine with the aerator for a taste (bottle kept corked in between pours)
Tasting Notes: Not as abrasive, easier to drink but still has an alcoholic ”bite”. Fruit flavors are still muted and a little stale, bit more cherry is coming through.
6:48 PM: Still tasting same glass of wine poured with aerator that’s been sitting for 10 minutes.
Tasting Notes: More fruit flavors are showing through – blackberry or black cherry and maybe a bit of vanilla.
7:05 PM: Wine from decanter is poured – total decant time is 30 minutes.
Tasting Notes: Lot smoother – no abrasive alcohol taste found. Same fruit flavors like blackberry and cherry coming through along with a vanilla or brown sugar. Also more earthy flavors found.
7:10 PM: Poured wine with aerator again for comparison (bottle was corked the whole time)
Tasting Notes: Still abrasive. Not nearly as smooth as decanted wine.
Based on my experience here, I would say the decanter was the clear winner. Patience is a virtue and that’s especially true when it comes to wine. By foregoing the instant gratification of the aerator, the wine from the decanter had more complexity to it and was a lot smoother – an overall flavor that was worth the wait. Now would I advise everyone to throw out their aerators, not at all. I think these are perfectly fine for your average grocery store wines. But when you have a special occasion type of wine or want to ensure that you get the most flavor, go the decanter route. Plus, I just think decanters look really cool sitting on the dinner table – and it beats hearing that slurrpy/sucking sound from the aerator.
Although I’ve only tried this experiment once, I plan to try it again with a few other wines to see if the result holds true across the board. If you have tried something similar then I would love to hear about your experience. Leave a comment here or on the ATL Vino Facebook Page. Until next time – cheers!