Aerate Your Senses
Traditionalists, stand back. First came the debate over cork vs screw cap. Now, it’s the decanter vs the aerator.
This has happened to you, right? You open up a bottle of wine for dinner only to realize that it should have been decanted half an hour before. Come on, I know it’s not just me. Someone less impressed by wine and all its subtleties might wonder, who cares? There’s a very good reason to care — aroma and flavour (ok, two reasons, but who’s counting?). Imagine being served a steaming plate of osso buco or chicken and broccoli in peanut sauce that smells faintly of something or other unidentifiable. When you take a bite, there’s a noticeable absence of taste. You wonder distractedly (since your mind is now fondly remembering the ham sandwich you ate for lunch) if the chef used water to season the meal. Wine is exactly the same. Given that it’s part of the meal, a food group in itself, really, its bouquet should be present, attainable, inspiring … you get the picture. If you’ve ever enjoyed wine, let’s say a Chardonnay, that’s had a chance to open up (that is, let its flavour and bouquet nuances come to the fore), you’ll understand what I’m going on about. All of a sudden (alright, maybe an hour, give or take) every little nuance of butter, creaminess and minerality comes through. You take a sip and the flavours dance on your palate. But, knowing that wine should aerate isn’t going to help your time crunch problem.
Admittedly, when I first heard of this product I was pretty sceptical. How could forcing wine to aerate quickly result in anything close to the real thing? Allowing a wine bottle to sit open for a while lets the air in the room gently reach the wine, become one with it, massage the subtleties until they’re unmasked. The Vin-Aire works by way of ventilators located on either side of the “Aire-Funnel” (read: the stem). Vin-Aire claims that the wine “inhales air [as it] swirls” through the funnel. Voilà, instant aeration. I had to try one. Days later, I had my hands on a brand new aerator. The box was so masterly made that it took me a little while to figure out that the lid releases from the side fold and not from the top. But, once opened, the first thing that struck me was that it was beautiful. Streamlined, shaped like a liqueur glass, the design, according to the literature, is an award winner.
But, does it work?
The Vin-Aire literature lays out very specific instructions for use. Not that it’s difficult to operate by any means. The authors do, however, suggest that one tries a side-by-side taste test. I obliged, of course.
Two empty wine glasses sat side-by-side on my dining room table. Into glass A, sans aerator, I poured the 2002 Lingenfelder Scheurebe that my taste-test assistant pulled from the cellar. Glass B received the same wine poured through the Vin-Aire. The first thing you can’t help but notice is the gurgling sound the wine makes as it passes through the ventilators. It makes you giggle. (Ok fine, it made me giggle). The second thing you can’t help but notice is that, unlike the wine in glass A, the wine in glass B is covered in a blanket of bubbles. Most of them popped before I took my first sip, but they were nonetheless fun to look at.
Finally, the big test. Taste-test assistant, with his finely developed nose and palate, was able to detect subtle hints of citrus. I, nothing. Glass B, however, was a whole other crate of grapes. I became aware of the enticing citrus and spice bouquet as I was drawing the glass closer to me. The flavours leapt from the wine. Taste-test assistant was bowled over, too. We spent long minutes discussing the subtle cream, butter, honey, flowers, citrus and refreshing acidity. Sorry if the description sounds over the top. But, neither taste-test assistant nor I were prepared for that onslaught of aroma and flavour. Neither of us had any idea that the aerator could make such a huge difference. For test two, we poured 2006 Salento Primitivo. This is a red wine that doesn’t really need a lot of help. Poured straight from the bottle into glass A, it already demonstrated a pronounced bouquet of fruit and spice. The Vin-Aire made it better. Nuances of fennel and blackberries that were partially present in glass A just exploded in glass B.
So, what’s the verdict? My Vin-Aire isn’t stored in the wine cabinet next to the decanters. It’s left out and on-hand all the time. Try it, and let me know what you think.