THE QUESTION: Which wine aerator provides the best bang for your buck? They all seem to do the same thing and even the Vinturi has a specific white-wine and red-wine aerator. What's the difference?
THE ANSWER: Aerators are all the rage in the wine-accessories world. I've tried out countless versions. Aerators are designed to improve flavour by accelerating wine's exposure to oxygen. In measured doses, oxygen can soften texture and enhance fruitiness and complexity. The traditional aeration tool is the familiar decanter, a snazzy crystal pitcher that few pretentious connoisseur would be caught without (yes, I've got several). The simple act of pouring a bottle into a decanter agitates the liquid, bringing more molecules into contact with air. Most decanters feature a wide bowl that continues the process as the wine sits around. More surface above the liquid exposes the wine to more air.
The aerators you're asking about are fancy funnels that enable you to do the sloshing one glass at a time, so you can preserve the rest of the bottle for another day. (Air contact tends to improve wine in the short term, but if you leave most wines exposed to lots of air for, say, more than a few hours, they will turn sour or flat.) The Vinturi - and some models like it - automatically draws in extra air through a side hole as the liquid flows downward into the glass. It works well for young wines as well as old, most notably for red wines, which, in my opinion, have a greater tendency to improve with aeration. It's a subtle effect, to be sure. Unless you're paying close attention and care about such things, you may not notice much difference. That said, I've presented wine novices with aerated and non-aerated samples of the same wine and, without knowing which was which, they generally preferred the aerated wines.
You get a much more pronounced effect with an aerator than by simply swirling wine in your glass - the poor man's way of aerating. It's analogous to beating cream or eggs with a whisk compared with a spoon - the whisk works better. Vinturi's white-wine aerator (priced at about $50, just like the red-wine counterpart) pulls in more air using a wider-diameter side hole and is designed to render the effect more noticeable in the case of white wines. I remain unconvinced. In fact, I've found some white wines taste slightly better with the red-wine model. And with the white-wine version, some whites seemed to lose a bit of their vigour, though, again, the effect was subtle. In some cases, the wine tasted better using the white Vinturi. I'm guessing it depends heavily on which style of white wine you're pouring, though it would take me a lot more testing to say with confidence which styles of white might benefit more from the white-wine aerator compared with the red. My advice: Stick with the red-wine model even if you enjoy whites. Well, wasn't that a long-winded answer? When did drinking wine get to be so complicated?
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