Wine is the beverage of choice for many people; to some extent, it’s a lot more appreciated than beer, for instance. What a vast chunk of the populace doesn’t know, though, is that they can make a $20 bottle of wine (relatively inexpensive), taste like a much more expensive brand.
How? Easy: by using a wine aerator. This is the most affordable method of improving the bouquet of any given wine, no matter how cheap. How can wine get better by using a tool? Well, it’s not the tool itself that does the trick – it’s the effect that you should thank for.
Let’s not waste another second and get to the bottom of it.In This Article You Will Learn…
What Does A Wine Aerator Do?
Simply put, a wine aerator is a pour-through device that aerates the wine as you pour it from the bottle in the glass. It’s not rocket science. This device is inserted in the mouth of the bottle.
All you have to do is pour the liquid through the spout. As the wine flows to the glass, it is exposed to oxygen. The result is aerated wine. What’s the purpose of all this?
You’ve probably observed that after you’ve uncorked a bottle of wine and poured it into the glass, its bouquet is rich, and you can feel every hint of aroma as a consequence. That is due to two processes: oxidation and evaporation.
Professional wine-tasters always swirl the wine in the glass before they sip on it: that has the very same effect as the wine aerator. When it’s infused with air, it starts to oxidize. You should keep in mind that it’s not recommended to aerate white wine because it will make it less tasteful.
Red wine becomes more delicious once it’s been aerated because it has a higher concentration of tannin (a biomolecule found in grape seeds and skins) than its white counterpart.
Tannin accounts for wine tasting like wine. So, it’s obvious that this is the compound that makes it better when aerated properly.
A good number of people still mistake the wine aerator for the wine decanter.
The aerator is different from the decanter because it does not remove the sediments like the latter does.
There are aerators that come with the decanter in the form of meshes, but the two are still distinct.
What Is The Difference Between Decanting And Aeration?
It’s true that both these processes have a similar effect on wine, but they are also quite different. For instance, a wine decanter is a pitcher that’s used for storing the wine. Due to the fact that it stays uncovered, it becomes aerated.
Moreover, whatever sediments might have been in the bottle will remain on the bottom of the decanter. As you’ve seen, the aerator is a pour-through, funnel-like accessory, not a pitcher.
Even though a decanter is, in most cases, just as effective as a wine aerator, you should opt for the latter if you want to save yourself some time.
The wine will be aerated as you pour it through the funnel; if you use a decanter, you’ll have to wait a bit until it’s properly aerated and ready to be poured into the glass.
This isn’t that much of a tragedy, but it would be rude to tell your guests “Wine will be served a tad later”, wouldn’t it? If not rude, at least disappointing, that’s for sure.
If you’re really into wine, you can decant it first, then use a wine aerator to infuse it with air. This way, you aerate it twice. Okay, we’ve talked about aeration until now, but you might still be wondering: how does it work?
We’ll tackle this in the next section.
The Science Behind Wine Aeration
“Let wine breathe” – this has great chances of causing some laughter, but once you’ve tasted a wine that has “breathed”, you’ll stand corrected.
Wine contains a couple of compounds that are volatile, primarily sulfites. These cause that pungent smell that hits you when you uncork the bottle.
When the wine makes contact with the air, the volatile compounds will evaporate, and that profoundly alcoholic and fairly unpleasant odor will disappear into the air. The alcohol itself doesn’t evaporate, so rest assured you can still get drunk.
Don’t get us wrong: sulfites are crucial to a good-tasting wine because they don’t allow it to oxidize excessively, which would make it disgusting. It’s just that wine doesn’t need them anymore when the bottle is opened.
As quickly as the evaporation process has ended – or better said once it has begun – another process takes place: oxidation. If you let an apple on the table, it will turn brown eventually. That’s oxidation right there.
Rust on a piece of metal is a product of oxidation, too. The same thing happens to pretty much all sorts of fruit that contain, among other compounds, epicatechins, tannin and anthocyanins (these account for the purple color of the grapes).
Even the alcohol in the wine will pass through a brief oxidation process when the bottle is opened. We’ve mentioned that white wine doesn’t need any aeration, and this is why: it does not contain as many pigments and compounds as red wine.
Subsequently, there are very little things in it that would benefit from aeration. Homemade stored wine benefits from the process the most because it is rich in compounds and doesn’t contain any chemicals, like many of the wines commercialized today.
So, if you want to improve the taste of your red wine, you should definitely consider a wine aerator, because there’s actual science in it working. Most people think this is something not-so-fancy people came up with.
While everyone is entitled to have his/her own opinion, this claim is really ungrounded, as aeration can truly make a difference in the taste of a wine, albeit small.
How Does A Wine Aerator Work?
If you’ve read everything carefully until now, you already got a hint of how this device works. When you uncork the bottle, you insert the wine aerator in it; as the wine passes through the funnel, it is exposed to air from start to finish.
Too much exposure to air has great chances of ruining a good wine, regardless of how expensive and premium it is. The wine aerator facilitates quick and effective oxidation; consequently, the aroma of the wine won’t flatten out.
Some aerators can be handheld but that’s neither here nor there since the effect remains the same. One that needs to be inserted in the neck of the bottle is much more effective because it cuts the risk of spilling very short.
Let’s take an even closer look at the two main processes involved in aerating a wine, so you know what’s going on from point A to point B.
If you ask a professional wine-taster what can destroy the enjoyment of sipping a good glass of wine, he’ll provide the answer instantly while looking at you with a scowl: oxidation.
Yes, oxidation is one of the worst things that can happen to wine, but only if it’s excessive. Let’s break this down even further: when you’ve opened the bottle, oxidation will occur immediately. Some of the compounds will break down.
The oxidation will deepen all the different aromas that the wine in it might have, but for a very short period of time; after that span has expired, your wine will go bad.
We invite you to let a glass of wine uncovered for a couple of hours. Taste it. What does it taste like? Rusty iron, at best. That’s because too much oxidation has taken place and the compounds that make it taste better will make it taste like cheap juice because their properties were destroyed.
When you use a wine aerator, the oxidation level of the wine is optimal, just about enough to improve and emphasize the taste. Afterward, though, the wine in the glass will continue to oxidize and that’s why you shouldn’t beat around the bush and drink it quickly instead.
Many people seem to think that leaving a bottle of wine open will irrefutably decrease its ethanol content. That’s true but not as bad as you might think it is. It’s 100% true that some of the alcohol evaporates when the bottle is uncorked.
However, it would take weeks on end of leaving that bottle without a cork for the alcohol to evaporate in such a high percentage that the wine would just become some common grape juice.
Just an infinitesimal percentage of ethanol evaporates when you open the bottle.
Incidentally, the evaporation of that tiny concentration of alcohol makes it better. While it’s not recommended at all to leave your wine uncovered, it wouldn’t lose much of its alcohol if you did. This is just a huge misconception.
The reason why you should not leave it without a cork is that it will oxidize and taste like dirt. The evaporation of alcohol is insignificant, so you shouldn’t worry about that. It’s needless to say that wine that has been left unattended for long will eventually turn into vinegar.
The odds of it losing all of its alcohol are smaller than its odds of becoming vinegar, so there you go. This is something the Myth Busters need to film an episode about so that the truth reaches all the skeptics at the same time.
Why Not Just Shake the Wine?
Sure, that does a good job, perfectly true, but it’s not entirely recommended. If the wine has already been poured into the glass, you may shake it in order to aerate it; on the other hand, you should never shake it while it’s still in its bottle.
This won’t do you or the wine any good – by shaking it, the sediments on the bottom of the bottle will mingle with the wine. Depending on the wine you’ve purchased, this could make it absolutely horrible, as if it were mixed with sand.
Homemade wine usually has a lot more sediments than the one you can purchase from the store so it’s all the more frowned upon shaking that than it is upon shaking wine that you’ve bought.
If you have a decanter, you might just save the beverage, but if you don’t, your guests will wish they brought some sieves with them. White wine generally has less sediment than red wine, but you shouldn’t shake that either.
Does Wine Really Need To Breathe?
Wine will breathe anyway, no matter if you like it or not. In fact, it will breathe as fast as you’ve taken that cork out. It does not aerate properly when you do this, though, because the neck of the bottle is too narrow.
The answer to your question is: yes, wines do need to breathe, i.e. be aerated. With all these, not all wines on the market need to go through this process. Those who have a low concentration of tannin, for instance, don’t require aeration.
Extremely young wines, too, won’t get any better if aerated. As mentioned previously, they don’t have as many compounds as aged ones, especially tannin and anthocyanins (if any, considering the grapes are white).
A decanter would be useless in this case, as well, because the wines that have the aforementioned features generally don’t have too much sediment. A good way of making sure that a wine needs to be aerated is to read the label.
If the tannin concentration is specified and it’s high, you are good to go. Unfortunately, not many wines have this info on their labels.
Types Of Red Wine That Would Benefit From It
Some wines that could use a wine aerator are homemade red wine that has a lot of sediments, Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Montepulciano. Most Italian red wines can use some aeration.
Hopewell Valley Barbera and any other red wines that can be more or less aged can be aerated for pleasant results, too. Keep in mind that red wine oxidizes a lot faster than white wine, so don’t pour it into the glass and let it there for half an hour.
Aerated wine should be consumed on the spot, to make sure you’re getting the best flavor and it doesn’t dissipate. Wines like Rhone Blend and Napa Cabs join the family of wines that will taste better after they’ve been aerated.
There are a few white wines that can be aerated with however decent results. Bordeaux wines, for instance, but they need to be fairly young. Some Alsace and Burgundies might taste better after aeration, too.
The thing is, you can aerate whatever wine you want, there are no clear-cut rules as to what wines should be aerated and which should not be. And even if there were, there’s a slight chance people would still do what they think is fit.
We told you that white wines don’t get any better if they’re aerated, but of course, you can still do it if you feel like there’s an improvement in taste, no matter how small. Some people say aeration isn’t even a thing and that no wine whatsoever gets better by being exposed to air.
As you can see, the opinions on whether a wine aerator is a good catch or not are wildly divided.
Does Aeration Really Improve Taste?
Here’s what some may call “an A-bomb”: the taste of the wine depends a great deal on how you drink it. If you go bottoms-up, you won’t really feel its flavor. That’s the main reason why wine tasters drink one sip at a time.
Your taste buds don’t make the most out of the aroma if you chug the wine down because honestly, they’ve got no time to do so.
If you aerate the wine, it will taste a tad better, but only if you know how to appreciate that change in flavor that occurs for a very short period of time after the aeration. Being a wine aficionado is a plus because hopefully, you’re accustomed to drinking wine on a regular basis.
This will surely have created a certain sensitivity to taste, in the sense that you can tell the difference between a bad wine and a good wine. Moreover, you can feel any change, regardless of how insignificant for others, that occurs in the bouquet.
In this light, the wine aerator isn’t a device created by a magician – it is of help, obviously, but you need to learn how to drink wine properly. This way, you’ll spare yourself of some monstrous headaches, too.
So, the definitive answer to this question is “Yes”, a wine aerator makes your wine more delicious. In order for this to happen, you have to drink it slowly and keep it in your mouth for a second.
There are many other variables that can take a toll on the taste of your wine. Temperature, for example, is crucial. Also, the overall quality of the wine, evidently, will impact the taste directly.
Cleaning A Wine Aerator
If you have a wine aerator that works as a decanter at the same time (i.e. it has a fine mesh in it), the best way to clean it up properly is to rinse it with hot water, then remove all the sediments (if any) with a tiny brush.
There are cleaning brushes that have been specifically created for use on a wine aerator. If possible, try to purchase an aerator that comes with such a brush. If you don’t remove those sediments, they’ll definitely end up in your glass.
Plus, if they get stuck there for long, they’ll turn bitter and so will your wine. Since a wine aerator is really just a glass funnel, you won’t have to worry about complex cleaning processes. To some extent, that’s the charm of using such a device.
Can You Wash A Wine Aerator In A Dishwasher?
It depends on what your wine aerator is made of and how feeble it is. If it’s just a piece of slim glass, you might not want to clean it in a dishwasher, because there’s a chance it will break.
If the aerator is acrylic, then yes, it’s totally safe to put it in the dishwasher with your plates, glasses, etc. Most wine aerators don’t need as thorough a cleaning as a dishwasher offers. Rinsing them with hot water is all the cleaning they need and that’s a fact.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with ensuring there won’t be any bacteria on it, so you can choose to clean it any way you might like best. The choice is entirely yours.
A wine aerator is still considered somewhat of a pseudo-device, due to the fact that a good chunk of the population can’t really spot any difference in a wine that’s been aerated and one that wasn’t.
Again: to each his own. This is definitely not an item for everybody. If you love your wine and this device has been proved effective for you, then, by all means, keep on using it.
Hopefully, the scientific facts that back up the efficiency of the humble wine aerator will change your mind and make you see that there is, indeed, a certain improvement in taste if you use it.
We know that you might not be fully convinced that you need a wine aerator in your wine-drinking paraphernalia. We’ll correct that immediately, as we’ve compiled a thorough buying guide for you.
Apart from valuable information concerning the features that your aerator should have, we will also review briefly 5 of the highest-rated products you can find online nowadays. This way, you’ll know exactly what aerator is best for you.
We hope you’ve found this guide to be useful and that you’ll be giving the aerator a chance. It’s totally fine to be skeptical, especially when you haven’t used one before. Maybe all that will change once you’ve sipped a bit of aerated wine.