Aerator vs Decanter: Which is Better?

As seen on Wine Enthusiast  www.winemag.com

While the premise behind aerating and decanting wine is quite similar, there are some notable differences between the two.

The goal of both is to aerate the wine—that is, to increase its exposure to oxygen. When you expand the surface area of the wine, you increase how much of it is contact with air. This allows the wine to more quickly develop intense aromas and flavors.

But the process isn’t guaranteed magic. Aerating a basic Pinot Grigio will not turn it into a perfectly aged Montrachet. The process of aeration, or limited oxidation, simply allows the potential complexities and nuances of a wine to emerge a bit faster.

vinOair Wine Aerator

So, what’s the difference between aerating and decanting? Let’s start with aerators. Typically, these are small devices that are either placed in or on the bottle or held by hand. Some variations introduce air into the device that the wine travels through, while others disperse the pour through various spouts. However, all serve to increase the wine’s exposure to air while it’s poured.

These low-profile aerators are ideal for young, opulent and tannic reds that may be a bit muted (closed) immediately upon opening a bottle, or whose tannins can overpower the balance of the wine. One of the main functions of aeration is to soften tannins, which allows the fruit and acid to shine through. Just about every wine will benefit from a bit of aeration.

Quick Wine Tip

Aerator: Use on young wines, particularly big, bold and tannic reds.

Decanter: Use on older wines and more delicate bottlings.

However, most aerators won’t address sediment found in some wine. As a refresher, sediment is the grainy buildup of solids in wine that often derives from fermentation and leftover yeast (lees). For most young wines, sediment is a non-issue, but it’s often present in older bottles.

Sediment can also clog some aerators. This can affect the flow of wine and potentially create a messy and unfortunate overflow situation.

Top view of decanter and wineglass with red wine on the wooden table
Getty

Therefore, a decanter is usually the preferred method to aerate older wines from the cellar. When poured slowly and properly, most of the wine’s sediment can be kept in the bottle. This is why many sommeliers use a candle or flashlight to illuminate the glass while pouring, so they can stop pouring once the sediment reaches the neck. This way, you’re sure to only be sipping on fine wine and not choking on grainy, solid sediment.

The art of decanting wine is a time-honored tradition. To watch the ritual of an aged Burgundy as it falls mesmerizingly into a beautifully crafted crystal decanter adds to its enjoyment.

So, to recap, the rule of thumb is simple. For young, big, bold and tannic wines, an aerator will do the trick. But for older, more delicate and fragile selections, grab a decanter and proceed with caution, as those wines may need a little extra care.

Pro tip: For young wines that need as much oxygen as they can get, double up and aerate the wine right into the decanter. Trust us, it really works.

Published on July 2, 2019
TOPICS:Wine Basics
About the Author
MARSHALL TILDEN III

From his first sips of wicker basket Chianti at his grandfather’s dinner table to a 1986 Premier Cru Gevrey-Chambertin, Tilden knew that there was something magical about wine. He earned his Diploma in Wine and Spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and is a Certified Specialist of Wine with the Society of Wine Educators. Having been with Wine Enthusiast catalog since 2005, when he is not writing about wine he also runs the wine storage division and is head of W.E.’s in-house education program.

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Decanting Wine In A Blender… Really?!?

A couple of weeks ago my cousin told me about an article he read describing this whole decanting wine in a blender craze, and if I thought that it would actually work. I have seen a few different pieces on this ‘hyperdecanting’ fad where you can use handheld devices, or even blenders, to aerate a wine in a matter of seconds. It stems from the same premise as many of the aerators out there which expose wine to as much air as possible allowing them to open up in a flash.

So will putting wine in a blender work? Yeah…If you pour a bottle of wine into a blender that could use a good amount of aeration and hit the switch it probably will do the job. But is it worth it? Do you really want to take something as beautiful and delicate as a bottle of wine and toss it in the same device in which you make your smoothies and protein shakes? I know I don’t… here’s why.

First off, there’s certainly a chance it may damage the wine and minimally will give it some form of a froth. But more importantly, wine is a living and breathing thing…constantly evolving from the day it is made until the time it is consumed. It will also most likely gracefully improve as the wine sits in your glass. Personally, I love to experience how a wine changes in a matter of minutes from something tightly wound up and guarded to a fully expressive and complex treat for all the senses. By allowing it to whip around a blender like a kid on the Rotor,  you could miss one of the best transitional moments in the life of that wine thereby negating the overall enjoyment.

Wine Decanting

So I would say this… open a bottle, pour a little in a glass and give it a good sniff to take in all those delightful aromas. Then take a sip, swirl it around your mouth and let it linger on your palate before letting it go down. If it feels like there should be a little more to the wine then grab an aerator or decanter to help it open up a bit quicker. But if you have the time to wait, just pour yourself a glass and slowly enjoy it over time and you will notice how a really well made wine will slowly transform and mature to its fullest potential. As for the blender… probably best to leave that for the morning to make your favorite homemade hangover concoction.

 

What’s With The Swirl?

There are few things more elegant and mesmerizing than watching wine endlessly twirl within the bowl of a crystal glass. Those who do it well can almost create designs with their swirl, changing direction and speed at will. For some, it can be so addictive that it becomes like second nature and the swirling never stops. I know I am certainly guilty of that on many occasions.

https://i2.wp.com/www.tayloreason.com/corkscrew/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/swirling-wine.jpg

Beyond its visual appeal there is an actual purpose to this entertaining, mildly annoying, ritual. Wine needs to breathe… and the bottom line is the more air you can get to the wine as quickly as possible, the faster all those hidden nuances and complexities will show themselves. For the same reason most wines will benefit from being decanted, swirling the wine allows the most surface area to come in contact with oxygen thereby allowing the wine to breath and open up.

Certain glass makers, like Riedel, take it even one step further. They leave tiny traces of lead in their glass (hence the name lead crystal) to improve this process. People ask me all the time… isn’t that dangerous? From all the studies that have been done the amount is so miniscule it is completely harmless. But it gives a hint of texture to the inside of the bowl. So that while you are swirling, the small non-visible bumps in the glass can help aeration of the wine as you twirl and swirl your favorite juice.

Once you get good, you can swirl your decanters or even 2-3 glasses at a time! But if you are about to enjoy a really young, tannic wine or an older vintage Bordeaux that needs to open up, then swirl away! It may take some practice but once you get the hang of it you may never stop.
Cheers!