Wine is a mysterious thing. There is no other beverage on the planet that elicits so much self-doubt and need for knowledge than wine.
Think about it: when was the last time you were around tea snobs? Or had to pass a college like course to be an expert in water, or when you felt overwhelmed while trying to order coffee, well with the snobi-ness of Starbucks and other major coffee retailers, I can understand how maybe that last one isn’t true. However, the point still remains. People feel intimidated and overmatched when it comes to wine and there really isn’t a reason for them to be so.
Wine has been around longer than any other beverage, save water of course, and yet it still remains a mystery and overwhelming to the uninitiated and uninformed. You don’t need to know much about wine to appreciate it, but there are some basic tips and advice that you should know. So in our first series of “Wine: What You Should Know” we examine wine aeration.
What is a Wine Aerator?
A wine aerator works by introducing a larger amount of oxidation to the wine than would be normally achieved by allowing your wine to breathe on its own. While any devices exist, the vast majority do not meet the Sommelier standards for aerating wine. The key to a good wine aerator: You must be able to see the bubbles as soon as the wine hits the glass, which shows you that the proper amount of oxygen was introduced. You also want to look for a wine aerator pourer which dispenses the wine as it is being oxidized. Finally, the best wine aerators do not use costly CO2 refills, which can drive up the price significantly.
Oxygen is both the best thing and the worst thing that can happen to your wine, especially red wine. The introduction of oxygen into the glass of wine is what awakens the wine from its slumber. The aroma difference is so notciable that evne a wine beginner would be able to tell the difference. And, since 70% of wine drinking is aroma based, this is no small feat that the wine aerator accomplishes. But be warned, leaving the wine to absorb more and more oxygen over the course of a few days greatly reduces the quality of your wine, essentially turning it into fancy vinegar. So quick, controlled aeration is important, but also having your aerator stop unwanted excess oxygen from getting in. So look for an aerator that can seal the wine as well as dispense it and aerate it. It is all about being in control of the quality of your glass of wine.
You’ll more than earn your money back after three bottles. Using a high quality wine aerator can make a wine taste twice as expensive, turning that $10 bottle into a $20 bottle almost instantly. You’ll get twice the flavor for exactly the same price. Be warned though, that it may be difficult to go back to un-aerated wine after.
Do you aerate white wine?
The simple answer is yes and no. While some big and bold whites, like a Sonoma Chardonnay, with its deep buttery oaky flavors would love to be opened up and have those woodsy aromas tickle the hairs in your nose, a Portuguese Vinho Verde would not benefit at all from aeration.
To summarize: I believe every wine drinker both educated and experienced, and unsure new to wine consumer should own a wine aerator. The benefits far outweigh the costs. I would recommend an aerator that has a pourer, is battery powered (no CO2, unless you have lots of money to burn), simple controls, seals the wine, sleek and good looking (after all it will be on your counter all the time) and priced between $45-$65, there are many cheap wine “aerators” that simply have you pour your wine through what looks like a funnel. These are ineffective and are more for show than performance.
So, before enjoying your next glass of Burgundian Pinot Noir, or your spicy Zinfandel from Lodi, be sure to get some oxygen in your glass along with the wine. You won’t regret it.
Certified Sommelier, WSET III, Certified Specialist of Wine
Last Updated: May 4, 2023