Aeration of wine refers to letting the wine breathe. That is, exposing the wine to oxygen before you drink it, which releases aromas and softens tannins. Some people decant wine in order to let it breathe (just opening the wine bottle won’t really help, as the neck opening is too small to let enough air in), but others prefer simply swirling the wine in their wine glass – a Bordeaux glass is highly recommended for this.
Wine Aeration – Is it Necessary to Aerate Wine?
However, if you’re serious about wine, you may want to invest in a wine aerator, which does the job for you and speeds up the process. This guide to how to aerate wine covers what a wine aerator is, what it does, whether it works, whether you should aerate your wine, how long you should aerate it for, and the types of wines that benefit from aeration.
This post also includes a recommendation of an aerator called the O2 wine aerator.
Is Aeration of Wine Necessary?
It depends on the wine, so it’s best to research the wine first – the character and how it should taste. Typically, aeration is most beneficial for a young, full-bodied red wine, but other wines can also benefit from aeration. Some younger wines even benefit from double decanting, which is when the wine is poured into a decanter, then back into the bottle.
On the other hand, old vintage wines are often too fragile for aeration as they lose their fruity aromas quicker, white wines can sometimes lose their fruity intensity through aeration and they don’t have tannins to soften, while less complex wines designed for immediate consumption aren’t necessarily improved by aeration at all.
You may want to try a taste test – try a small portion of the wine with and without aeration (swirl around your glass) to see if you notice a big difference. If the wine straight from the bottle has a very overpowering taste, experiment with aeration.
Ultimately, the choice of whether or not to aerate can also come down to personal taste. For example, if you like the characteristics of a certain grape, then you may prefer immediate consumption rather than allowing those qualities to change through aeration.
Are wine aerators only for red wine?
Not necessarily, though young, tannic red wines are best known to benefit from aeration. Then again, not all red wines benefit from aeration. It truly depends on the wine.
Aeartaing Young tannic reds
Tannins are chemical substances found in wines, which make the wine astringent and tart. In some young wines (seven years or younger), the tannins may be harsh and strong, which can overpower the taste.
Typical wines that are usually served with some aeration are reds with high tannic profiles, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Bordeaux, Montepulciano, Italian wines, and wines from the northern Rhône Valley, to name but a few examples. If you’re unsure, ask at your local wine shop when you buy the wine, or look up the wine online.
Light-bodied reds that naturally have fewer tannins do not need to be decanted. For example, Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Burgundy, Cotes du Rhone, as well as lighter Zinfandel, Chianti, and Dolcetto.
What’s more, cheaper red wines are produced for quick, easy consumption and are usually light-bodied, and should not improve with aeration. However, some wine drinkers swear by running a cheap wine through an aerator, which improves the taste and provides a profile more akin to an expensive bottle.
Aerating Aged reds
Tannins usually soften with age, so aged red wines either don’t need aeration or only need a shorter amount of aeration time.
When decanting aged red wines, also consider the sediment that may have separated, and sits at the bottom of the bottle. This sediment, which usually occurs between eight and ten years of aging, is made up of mostly tannins, which can leave the wine tasting bitter.
To combat this, make sure the bottle has been resting upright for a few days (as bottles are often stored on their side) so that the sediment rests at the bottom. Then, when it comes to decanting, pour the wine very slowly as not to agitate the sediment, then stop pouring before you get to the murky layer at the bottom. Then, leave the wine to aerate for 10-15 minutes.
Aerating white wines
Although the general rule is that white wines don’t require aeration, there are some exceptions. The types of white wines that benefit from aeration are those that share many traits with reds – usually dry, full-bodied whites with a heavier mouthfeel.
Burgundies, white Bordeaux wines, and Alsace wines are some that fall into this category, but they only require around a half-hour in a decanter.
Aerating Vintage Ports
Sometimes called “Porto,” vintage ports should not be confused with regular ports. Porto is aged for 20 years or more and needs time to breathe to help release its flavors. Like with aged reds, there may also be sediment resting on the bottom, so it’s best to separate this in the decanting process. A vintage port should be left to aerate for around four hours.
How long should you aerate red wine?
The rule is that the younger and more tannic the wine, the longer it needs to breathe; while the older the wine is, the more sensitive it is to aeration. If you’re decanting a wine, allow it to sit in the decanter (a large-bottomed glass bottle) for around an hour.
There are also different ways to decant for aeration. Minimal oxygenation decants involve running the wine down the side of the decanter, while maximal oxygenating decants involve pouring fast directly to the bottom of the decanter so that there’s splashback, which means more contact with the air.
If you’re aerating in your wine glass, you can blow on the surface of the wine, place one hand over the top of the glass, then shake the glass vigorously.
Finally, some people swear by the method of pouring wine into a blender or food processor, then put it on high speed for 15-20 seconds, or to taste.
However, these days, thanks to advances in technology, there are purpose-made wine aerators, pour-throughs, and wine funnels on the market, which make the process simpler, faster, and less messy.
What is a wine aerator?
A wine aerator is a machine designed to speed up the aeration process, so you don’t need to decant and wait hours for a wine to open up. A wine aerator is usually handheld and can be used with a decanter or other vessel, or as a bottle stopper or wine pourer.
What does a wine aerator do?
A wine aerator gives the wine maximum exposure to air, which quickens the aeration process. Many aerators allow the wine to be poured directly from bottle to glass. There are also wine funnels and filters, which push the liquid against the side of the decanter as it is poured, which allows more air to get to the wine. These funnels can also help remove sediment and bits of cork.
Does a wine aerator really work?
There is some debate about aeration and whether it makes a difference, but it really depends on the wine and your palate. Some people can tell how a wine’s character changes in the glass over time, or after several days once the bottle has been uncorked.
In terms of science, ethanol and sulfites evaporate once a wine has been poured into the glass, which slightly lowers the abv content, and this reaction is influenced by the exposure of the wine to air.
After all, wine is a collection of chemical compounds, and when the wine is uncorked and poured into a glass, chemical changes take place, such as oxidation and evaporation, which help minimize the “unwanted” flavors in wine.
Ethanol and sulfites are the first compounds to evaporate because they’re the most unstable. While both play important roles in the production of wine (sulfites control microbes and prevent overoxidation, while ethanol is in wine due to the alcohol content), some molecules remain in the wine and can be removed through aeration.
Critics and experts also claim that allowing the wine to breathe decreases the concentration of reductive aromas – such as a burning or sulfur-like odor – which emphasizes fruity and oak aromas that are much more preferable on the palate.
Recommendation: The Vinovation O2 Wine Aerator
This gadget is the brainchild of wine enthusiast Rocco Giardullo. Rocco was born into an Italian family that immigrated to Canada from southern Italy and grew up around homemade Italian food and wine; helping out with curing meats, making homemade tomato sauce, and pressing grape juice to make wine.
When Rocco first visited Niagara-on-the-Lake, he was inspired by the winemaking of the region and began a more academic education about wine. Rocco and his wine-loving friends would debate aeration, including the lack of aerators on the market and their inability to fully aerate wine.
Inspired by his son’s favorite bath time toy, which pumped and sprayed water, Rocco decided to make a fountain-like aerator that could recirculate wine in a decanter – and the Vinovation O2 wine aerator was born!
What is the O2 wine aerator?
Created by the Vinovation brand, the O2 wine aerator helps oxygenate the wine and enhance flavor, by softening alcohol content, tannins, acidity, and sulfites, but it saves time on decanting, which usually takes at least an hour, by reducing the time to 10 minutes.
The O2 wine aerator is a sleek, handheld machine with a great design that goes well with all kitchen décor. The aerator is USB rechargeable and comes with a USB charging cable. The full charge lasts around an hour and a half. If the top light is red, then charging is required; when it’s green, the charge is full.
How to use the O2 wine aerator
First, decant the wine into the O2 wine decanter, then insert the O2 wine aerator into the neck of the decanter and press the power button to start the cycle. The cycle lasts 10 minutes, then the power automatically shuts off, so you can leave the aerator to run while you do something else.
How to clean the O2 wine aerator?
To clean the machine, pour around three ounces of water into the stand, then place the aerator onto the stand and let it run for 20 seconds or so. Rinse and repeat to make sure all of the remaining wine is removed. Wipe clean and allow the aerator to dry.
Every 30 uses or so, it’s recommended to do a more thorough clean by using 1.5 ounces of water and 1.5 ounces of vinegar.
The O2 wine aerator should not be used to store wine.
Reviews of the O2 wine aerator
“I have experienced no better way of rapidly aerating one’s red wine beneficially, with an undeniably positive impact upon both the wine’s sapidity (flavor) and texture (mouthfeel), than the Vinovation O2 Wine™ Aerator.” – Jamie Drummond, Wine Writer, and Sommelier, Good Food Media
“We have been using the Vinovation O2 Wine™ Aerator and believe its an amazing product. It is simple to use, and simple to clean.” – Tony and Ann Martins, Martins Vineyard Inc. (VQA)
“I was asked to do a taste test for the new Vinovation O2 Wine™ Aerator because of my unbiased opinion… After 20 minutes of aerating this wine, I was very surprised at the result. The wine did not attack your sense of smell while bringing your glass up to drink with its alcohol content. The wine had a silky smooth taste lingered with a taste of dark chocolate! I now realize that all this time I have missed out due to the fact that I have been tasting wine the wrong way.” – Kimmberley Cappone, Interior Designer
More about wine aerators
Did you find this guide to how to aerate wine helpful? Did you learn anything new about the aeration process, or do you have anything more to add? If you have any recommendations or experiences with aeration and/or aerators, let us know in the comments below.