Male sommelier pouring red wine through aerator into glass.

To Aerate or Not…

Decanting can take forever (who really wants to wait 2+ hours to enjoy a glass?), and while some love the pomp and circumstance that comes with decanting a wine or showing off their prized design decanter, most people just want to enjoy a glass with their ready-to-go, warm dinner plate, and don’t want to add to the evening’s dishes pile.

Enter the aerator craze.  Whether designs that are free standing, or neatly placed in the neck of the bottle, you continue to see them, irrelevant of brand, popping up everywhere.

But do all wines benefit from aeration?  We’re sure all the aerator companies will tell you, “yes!”  But let’s be honest here, they have a product to sell.  The truth of the matter actually depends on the specific wine, and age of its vintage.

Aerating White & Rosé Wine

Yes, your whites and Rosés can and will benefit from aeration, especially if they are youthful.  The younger wines, regardless of color, will always benefit from interacting with a little oxygen.  It is unfortunate more people don’t aerate their white and Rosé wines, especially the more nose heavy wines like Viognier, Riesling, Albariño, Provençal Rosé and any other more nose-centric varietal or blends.  But those aren’t the only ones who benefit, all wines will.  Sceptical?  We don’t blame you, do the side-by-side test.  Pour a glass straight from the bottle, and pour another alongside through your aerator.  Take a moment to smell both and see if you notice the difference on its bouquet.  then sip, notice the differences in profile (it is always best to sniff the non-aerated first before moving on to the arerated glass, repeat the same process with sipping the wines).  You will also notice differences with the finish, acidity levels, pretty much every aspect of the wine.

Aerating Reds

This one seems like a no brainer, especially as it is very commonplace to see red wines being aerated.  As stated above, the younger vintages will highly benefit from aeration before enjoying.  A side-by-side test is not only recommended here for the sceptics, but is a fun exercise to see just how much the aeration is helping.

Aerating Late Harvest & Fortified

You’ll begin noticing a pattern here, if it is youthful, it’ll help.  Might want to rinse your aerator pretty close to finishing pouring these wines as the sugars can clog up the oxygen pathways and make it very hard to clean if they cake up the tiny air ports in your device.

So When is it Not OK?

Regardless of wine color, varietal, blend, or style, it is never a beneficial thing to aerate old wines.  Highly aged or vintaged wines have a very short lifespan once the cork is pulled.  Ask anyone who has opened a 1970-something Bordeaux, or a prime vintage 80’s Chinon or Burgundy, it is a nerve wracking process to just open the bottle.  You don’t want to break the cork.  Will it be any good?  You paid this much or waited however long to let it mature, so what if it is turned?  What if it doesn’t live up to the hype?  What if you just don’t like it?  The list of worries goes on and on.  Then there is the short life span.  Some older bottlings only last hours, if not minutes before finally fading into the sunset of their lives.  You NEVER want to pass these wines through an aerator.  Oxygen at this point is the enemy.  The corks allow trace amounts of oxygen in to interact with the wine over a long period of time, thus ageing the wine, any more than the natural amount that it will interact with upon finally seeing the light of day will just kill it faster.

In Conclusion

If you are ever uncertain if a wine will benefit from aeration, remember, if it is young, yes.  If it is old, no.  Anywhere in between, or you find yourself uncertain, pour some without aeration, and some with, compare, then pick your path.  Remember, a lot about the wine world is experimentation, both professionally and personally, so don’t be afraid to try things and compare to curate your best experience with your juice.




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