Although oxygen can spoil a wine given time, it can also improve some wines if applied just before drinking. This is most often the case with youngish red wines, whose tannins can be softened by aeration, while the fruity flavours and other aromatic compounds, previously masked by the tannin, are helped to ‘open up’.
Aeration can also improve wines that experts call ‘reduced’. This means that they have a rubbery flavour, reminiscent of hot water bottles, owing to certain winemaking or bottling methods. With aeration this unpleasant flavour disappears.
Traditionally, red wines were opened and left in their bottle to 'breathe’. However, the tiny surface area of wine in the bottle neck meets little oxygen. Decanting – pouring the wine into a decanter or jug – is more effective. Nowadays, numerous gadgets claim to do the job better and faster.
Our experts tested each of the aerators and compared them with the same wine untreated. They also assessed the no-gadget-needed traditional method of wine aerating – double decanting. This involves pouring the wine splashily into a jug and back (through a funnel) into the bottle.
Our experts poured the wine splashily into a jug and back (through a funnel) into the bottle. This is what they would do if they had none of these gadgets. ‘Opens up the aromas and flavours a little,’ was the verdict, ‘but doesn’t do much for the tannins.’ They rated it ‘Improved a little’.
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All prices correct as of October 2020.
This works only with Coravin Wine Preservation systems. The tiny aerator fits on the system’s spout and pressure forces the wine through small holes as you pour, rather like a fine shower head. This increases the surface area of wine exposed to the air. The manufacturer says it rapidly aerates wine and gives silky, smooth and aromatic results equivalent to decanting wine for approximately 60 to 90 minutes
A double-chambered, grooved glass bulb whose rubber stopper fits into the opened bottle. As the wine is poured, it travels through and around each chamber. According to the manufacturer, it provides 'enhanced scent and flavour compared to serving from a bottle’.
A modern, wide-splayed glass decanter with a stopper that serves also to filter any sediment from the wine while forcing it to cascade down over the inside walls of the decanter. It’s said to aerate wine in just a few seconds to enhance aroma and flavour.
Smart-looking funnel of glass-like acrylic and black silicone with patented system to change the pressure and speed of pouring, and mix the wine with air ‘for the right amount of time’. Comes with a no-drip stand and filter screen. The manufacturer’s claims state: ‘All of the taste, none of the wait. Better bouquet, enhanced flavours, smoother finish.’ Makes a curious gurgling noise as you pour, but has a nice-to-hold, attractive design.
Our experts were:
Charles Metcalfe, wine taster and co-chair of the International Wine Challenge (IWC)
Kathryn McWhirter, wine taster, author and translator