Aerating wine seems to be the latest trend in wine enjoyment, even though it has been always been advocated. Also known as “letting it breathe”, aerating improves the taste of many, but not all wines. Another term “opening them up” better explains that some wines can be mellowed and have their flavours enhanced for greater wine appreciation and enjoyment.
Why should you aerate? Firstly, aerating wine softens the tannins. Tannins are the wine ingredients that make your mouth pucker, due to their astringency. As wines age, the tannins soften and allow the other wine flavours to come through, providing a stronger bouquet. Tannins can be harsh, overwhelming the wine. This is particularly true for young wines. Exposing the wine, through aeration breaks down the tannins, so it smoothes out and softens the wine.
Aerating also eliminates “bottle stink” which is an unsavoury stale aroma that can be eliminated by transferring the wine.
What wines should be aerated? Light whites, such as Sauvignon Blanc, or Pinot Grigio will not gain from aerating. Old wines (40 yrs. or older, yah right like we have a problem with that). Red wines, particularly ones high in tannins, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Syrah will benefit. White wines, richer and higher in tannins such as Chardonnay will also benefit for aerating.
So, how do you aerate your wine? Simply, popping the cork and letting the wine stand in the bottle is ineffective. If you are serving a whole bottle, you can use a wine decanter with a wide base. For a white such as Chardonnay or a lighter red, such as Pinot Noir 15-20 minutes is suggested. For heavier reds, 30 minutes is recommended.
The other option if you wish to do it by the glass is to purchase a Vinturi aerator. By pouring the wine through the Vinturi, you can serve your wine immediately and achieve the benefits of aeration.