If you plan to collect wine at home, you’ll need more than a wine cooler, a corkscrew, and a few glasses.
Most wines taste better after aeration, so how can you carry out this process?
To kick off, you’ll need a wine aerator.
What is a Wine Aerator?
A wine aerator is a term used to describe any device that forces wine into contact with more oxygen than it would encounter by being poured from the bottle into a glass.
Regardless of the approach you take to aeration, the underpinning principles are roughly the same:
- You use a wine aerator to pour wine into a separate container – typically a decanter – so that more of its surface area is exposed to the air.
- Aerating the wine will trigger the oxidation process, causing the wine to interact with more air than usual.
Why is it important for the wine to interact with oxygen, then?
Well, the initial contact between wine and oxygen serves to soften some of the tannins in the wine. Additionally, wine contains ethanol. Aeration will flatten out this medicinal taste. As a final bonus, aerating your wine will help to eliminate the fumes from sulfites – aeration causes an increased rate of evaporation.
Almost all wines will taste better and smell better if you use a wine aerator instead of pouring directly from bottle to glass.
While you can deliver some of the above effects by pouring wine from bottle to glass, you will not achieve the same level of efficiency as when using a wine aerator. A wine glass id designed to streamline drinking without spillage, while an aerator is intended to maximize the exposure of a wine’s surface to oxygen.
What Are Wine Aerators Used For?
Every wine aerator performs the same role: it forces wine to contact more oxygen than normal, triggering the processes of oxidation and evaporation.
A wine aerator works by forcing wine through a funnel at high speed with pressurized oxygen.
Wine contains many compounds susceptible to chemical reactions. Altering oxygen levels unnaturally triggers a reaction similar to the chemical reaction caused by young fruit ripening.
One of the compounds in wine is ethanol. Also known as alcohol, some ethanol content is converted into acetaldehyde and acetic acid. Resultantly, some of the vegetal and medicinal characteristics of the wine are stripped away. The overall taste of the wine will be softer.
Beyond this, unstable compounds like sulfites and ethanol start to evaporate rapidly when you use a wine aerator. Those compounds are vital to wine production, but taste and aroma are improved if they are later partially removed.
Aeration, then, helps you to enjoy your wine at its very best.
What Are the Benefits of Aerating Wine?
Aerating your wine will enhance the characteristics in place while also removing some unwanted elements.
After aeration, your wine should have a more rounded profile with even more complexity. A cheap wine will be drinkable, a mediocre wine will taste better, and a good wine will taste great if you use an aerator.
Aeration will also bring out the best in the overall bouquet of the wine.
The three key benefits of wine aeration are as follows:
- Renders cheaper wine more drinkable: If you aerate a poor bottle of inexpensive wine, it will be much more palatable. Aerating mediocre wine can turn it into a tempting drink.
- Improves the flavor profile: Most experts estimate that 80% of the sense of taste is linked to smell. As the wine is exposed to more oxygen, not only do the unwanted compounds removed improve the smell, but they will also enhance the taste.
- Enhance the bouquet of the wine: Ethanol has a medicinal aroma while sulfites smell of rotten eggs. With both of these compounds removed from wine during the aeration process, the ill effects will be neutralized.
What Types of Wine Need Aeration?
The majority of red wines respond favorably to aeration, rich and complex reds in particular.
You should always aerate younger red wines. These wines will not have been aged for long enough to settle the tannins. If you aerate these wines, you will remove some of the unwanted chemicals, softening the tannins.
Any red wine that’s packed with sediment will also benefit from aeration. In mature wines, the tannins will often be tightly bound together. When there are too many tannins, the wine can taste bitter. Aeration will help to counteract this.
Although you can aerate some white wines, not all whites respond positively to the process.
A light white wine will not need aerating. Younger whites will not have tannins and will not need the same attention to aroma or flavor.
How can you go about aerating wine the easy way, then?
How To Aerate Wine
You can use several different methods to aerate wine.
In the absence of an aerator, a decanter, or any other equipment, you can perform the crudest form of aeration by swirling your wine around inside the glass a few times. This will at least modestly increase exposure of the wine’s surface area to oxygen. Sluicing the wine around inside the glass will also encourage the processes of oxidation and evaporation.
A wine aerator performs the same role as a wine decanter. The difference is the inclusion of pressurized oxygen into the process with an aerator.
There are two main types of wine aerator:
- Wine pourer aerator: You fit this type of wine aerator onto any open wine bottle. Also known as a bottle stopper aerator, the wine will run through an aerating device before it is channeled into the wine glass.
- Handheld aerator: You place a handheld aerator on top of a wine glass. When you pour wine from the bottle into the glass, it will first pass through a chamber. This chamber performs at least partial aeration. Wine glasses featuring pour lines can do the same kind of job. You must pour very gently. Wine will typically flow more slowly from the aerator than if you were pouring the wine by hand.
Don’t forget to pop back soon as we’ll be reviewing all the best aerators on the market in the coming weeks.
You could also, as mentioned above, use a wine decanter to prevent sediment entering your wine glass while also improving both the aroma and the flavor of your wine.
Before using a decanter, stand the wine bottle upright for at least 12 hours to allow the sediment to settle.
You have two methods of using a wine decanter:
- Shock decanting
- Regular decanting
Shock decanting is also known as splash decanting or quick splash decanting. This style of decanting is similar to wine aerating.
All you do is invert the wine bottle and allow the force of gravity to pour the wine into the decanter. The wine will splash forcefully off the bottom of the decanter.
Shock decanting is the most effective method of aerating tannic, younger red wines. Older reds with an accumulation of sediment will not respond well to splash decanting.
This method of aerating your wine triggers the oxidation process almost immediately. In many cases, this method can give you the quickest results and a significant improvement in flavor and aroma.
Decanting wine using the traditional approach is equally simple to achieve. All you do is pour the wine slowly into a dedicated wine decanter. You should pour as slowly as possible to minimize splashing, the opposite approach to splash decanting.
Either set the decanter on a flat surface and pour your wine inside or hold the wine bottle in one hand and the decanter in the other. Experiment with both techniques to determine which feels the most comfortable.
Pouring the wine slowly helps to retain the texture and structure of older wines.
If you use this approach to decanting wine, you will be able to notice any sediment before it ends up in your glass and spoils your enjoyment of your wine.
We very much hope today’s guide has shown you why you should consider aerating certain wines. You should also have a clear idea about how to aerate wine like a sommelier, even if you’re a complete novice.
Pop back soon for our guide to the best wine aerators so you can choose the right piece of equipment for the job. We have many more guides forthcoming, so be sure to pop back regularly.
Before you go, take a moment to bookmark our blog. We’re adding fresh content daily here at Slow Wine Magazine, and we’re here to share our love of wine with you. See you soon!