If you’re a die-hard fan of California wine, you may have noticed that the second glass tastes better and richer than the first. No, it’s not the alcohol influencing your taste buds, it’s air.
All but the most premium, aged vintages need to be decanted or aerated to achieve their most pleasing states. Contrary to your popular happy-hour bartender, you shouldn’t pour wine straight into a glass and drink it.
Wine is a living thing, in the sense that it absorbs oxygen and “ages” or oxides. Many wines benefit from “breathing” – exposing the freshly corked wine to oxygen to mellow the flavors and transform vino to an ideal, drinkable state.
Let it Breathe
Decanting is great if you have an hour or more to let your bottle breathe but when you want to break out a second vintage at the dinner table, you may need more than a wide mouthed carafe. You need an aerator. An aerator will transform your inexpensive bottle into the perfect vintage in seconds, not hours.
An aerator is a clever, funnel like gadget that maximizes the airflow through your wine while it’s being poured into a glass or decanter. This holy-grail gadget saves hours of waiting and is used extensively by chefs, sommeliers and wine professionals around the world.
Aerating has long been touted as an absolute for reds, but whites are emerging as benefiting as much, if not more from the process. Young wines, like our beloved California whites, have been found to improve dramatically from aerating immediately after opening – using an aerator ensures that your crispy white is served cool from the bottle, at the ideal temperature.
The darker your red, the more air it likely needs. Look at the color of the wine before opening your bottle – pale garnet or brick colored wines may only need a short time to breathe, as they’re closer to full maturity and at their peak state already. New, full-bodied reds need a thorough airing, between 1-2.5 hours in a decanter, or a room temperature run through your aerator.
Don’t make the mistake of uncorking a bottle and leaving it out to breathe, you won’t get enough oxygen into the narrow bottle neck.
If your freshly opened white seems to have little or no complexity, your wine needs more time to breathe, (and you may be serving it too cold). A word of caution, leaving a fresh Sauvignon Blanc to decant in the fridge puts your wine at risk of absorbing other food smells. A cheesy, garlicky glass of white isn’t on anyone’s menu. Use an aerator that funnels directly into the glass.
Where do I find wine aerators?
There are several new products on the market. Try to find one that uses a dual alteration air system and has a design that pleases the eye. After all, your guests are going to be watching in awe as you take their $15 bottle of wine and turn it into a masterpiece.
Now, who wants a drink?