Aerators have been a topic of much debate over the last few years - with questions arising such as; Do they work? Are they just for wine snobs? Are they better than a decanter? Hopefully I can shed some light on these popular gadgets and answer some questions you may have about them.
What is an aerator?
Aerators are easy and convenient tools designed to enhance the flavors, bouquet and finish of wines, much like the purpose of a decanter. They're created to speed up the breathing process of a wine. With most aerators, you hold the aerator over your glass or decanter and pour the wine into it. The wine then goes right into your glass or decanter. Some aerators also attach to the bottle.
Why would you aerate or let your wine breathe?
The whole concept of aerating wine is simply to maximize your wine's exposure to air. By allowing wine to mix and mingle with air, the wine will typically open up, allowing further aromas and flavors to show through. The profile will soften and mellow out a bit, and overall flavor characteristics should improve.
Which wines need to be aerated? Can I harm a wine by aerating?
Red wines are the ones to benefit most from breathing before serving - younger, hearty wines and tannic wines, such as Cabernet. Older wines too will need aeration (or decanting - mentioned below). Wouldn't you need to stretch a little too if you were all bottled up for years. Whites will also improve with aeration. In general, most wines will improve with aeration. If you have a wine that is young with high tannin levels, it will need more extended time to aerate. To better enjoy red wines with a lot of body and tannins you should aerate. And no you cannot harm a wine by aerating.
Is using an aerator better than a decanter?
This is probably the question that causes the most heated discussions. Some say yes. We say no, not necessarily. They both are good for aeration but have different outcomes, to an extent. We use aerators, but we also use decanters. If you want to have a glass of wine immediately, now, and can't wait then use an aerator. This will quickly give a wine some air (oxygen). If you want to see how your wine evolves and changes over the course of an hour or more than use a decanter. (A decanter is a glass holder that increases the surface area of a wine, thus allowing more air and oxygen to come into contact with it.) Honestly to us wine geeks that is complete pleasure - seeing how a wine changes over time with exposure too oxygen as the result of sitting in a decanter.
Which aerator brands are good?
There are so many wine aerator versions on the market today, and we have used and tested many. Here are few, at different price points that we have tested and work well. The Vinturi (near $40) is clearly on the cutting edge of wine aerating, mixing just the right amount of air with wine at the precise moments. The Vinturi also has a filter for use with wines with sediment. There is the Host aerator ($26). Its result is similar to the Vinturi, but it has a longer body and goes directly into the bottle. Then Metrokane makes one that’s less expensive ($21) and that also goes directly into the bottle.
So there is no wrong or right answer when it comes to aerators. It's more of a personal preference, and how quickly you want your wine.