Aerating is all about bringing the best out of the wine – and this happens by allowing the wine to ‘breathe’. In general young reds are most in need of good aeration before drinking, but there’s more to it than meets the eye.
In short, aeration:
Many wines need aerating to reduce the tannins. The oxygen in the air starts to break down these tannins as soon as the two come in contact … allowing the more subtle and complex flavours to come through.
Here’s our video about using an aerator, filter and decanter.
Aeration is recommended for:
In older vintage reds, tannins break down in the bottle as the wine's bouquet evolves, so there is no need for this aeration – though breathing is still recommended.
Generally, because white wine spends less time with the skins, stems and seeds of the grape, it is less tannic – but fewer tannins don’t mean zero tannins.
As a result, young white wine can be tart, or nearly flavourless if too cold, or served straight from the bottle. Many vineyards and tastings routinely decant or aerate their whites to soften the flavours and bring out the buttery soft and citrus notes that white wine lovers enjoy.
White wines that will benefit from aeration:
For most whites, however, just leaving the bottle to breathe will be enough.
The secret to aerating is getting as much air as possible to the liquid to break down those tannins. And all the methods of aeration are different ways of accomplishing this same thing.
A red wine glass, for instance, does just this as it is larger than a white glass, allowing more liquid to be in contact with the air (and is why a red glass should only be filled to the widest part of the bowl).
Decanters are a great way of aerating wine – as they are also very attractive centrepieces of any tasting session. The width of a decanter allows the maximum area of contact between wine and air, promoting oxidisation. The Eisch Glas 1.5L Chateau Decanter is an elegant example.
Wine aerators allow the wine to be poured directly from bottle to glass, and many people use them when decanting, also, to speed up the aeration process. They are a great way of getting the maximum exposure to the air, and add to the theatre of a good tasting session. The VacuVin Aerator/pourer is an elegant way to aerate as you pour.
Wine funnels perform the same function as aerators, but in a slightly different way. The best funnels push the liquid against the side of the decanter as it is poured, letting more air get to the wine. Many funnels also have filters, which remove any sediments or bits of cork, and also aid the aeration process.
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Jancis Robinson x Richard Brendon
Glass and Co
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