Why aerate wine?
What does wine aeration mean?
Aeration literally means to supply with, or circulate with, air. When we talk about aerating wine, we literally mean adding air to the liquid.
Why should we consider aerating wine?
Well, when wine is bottled, it is secured with an airtight seal in order to remain in the state the winemaker intended. Over time, the tannins break down, creating a smoother, more drinkable wine, which is one reason why older wines are more expensive and prized. Aerating a young wine mimics the ageing process, creating a smooth, delicious wine in just a few minutes. Yup, that’s the beauty of aeration.
So, how does it work?
When wine, especially young red wines (wines that were made within a year or two of opening), are introduced to air, the air joins with the molecules of the wine, softening the tannins and mimicking the ageing process. Basically, oxygen breaks down the harsh, young tannins and makes them smoother. Leaving your wine open for a few days isn’t the answer, since that simply allows the alcohol to evaporate.
How then do you add air to wine? Well, if you have a few hours, you can decant the wine into a vessel with a large bowl, like a decanter. Make sure the wine has a large surface area so that it has optimal space to interact with the air and leave it for a few hours.
Need something a little faster? Enter the wine aerator. A simple aerator, like the VinOair Wine Aerator, fits onto the top of the bottle and as you pour, small bubbles are introduced to the wine in the neck of the bottle, thus mimicking ageing in the seconds it takes to pour a glass of wine. And the bonus is that this type of aerator also functions as a pouring spout, reducing spills and drips.
There are, of course, more complicated aerators, which go to great lengths to get the most exposure to air in the shortest time possible. The Menu Wine Breather Carafe, for example. Designed to be a decanter and aerator, it attaches to the mouth of the bottle; flip the whole thing over, so the bottle is upside down over the decanter and watch as the wine flows from the bottle, into the neck of the vessel and around the sides, exposing almost every part of the wine to air. For the very thorough, or for a very tannic wine, this can be repeated and the wine re-drained back into its own bottle. Not only is this a good example of wine aeration (lots of exposure to air, minimum time for alcohol to evaporate) but it’s entertaining to watch.
Why not give it a go?
Open up a bottle of your favourite supermarket wine. A young red wine, preferably, and pour a little into a glass. Take a sip and note any harshness or roughness in the wine. Run it through an aerator or decant for a few hours, and test again (leave the test batch in something airtight, so it stays the way it was first, if you are decanting).
Can you taste the difference?
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