Ever poured a glass of wine and thought it tasted too dry or tannic, or that there just wasn’t that much flavour to it? There’s a good chance it needed aerating. Here are 3 ways to aerate wine and what it all means too.
Aerating wine is the process of introducing a large amount of oxygen to wine just before you drink it. This has profound effects on the flavour and texture of wine – especially young reds.
You might have heard people say you’ve got to let the wine ‘breathe’ or that it needs to ‘open up’. That all comes from having contact with oxygen.
But just opening the bottle and leaving it on the side for a while will do little or nothing. The opening’s too small.
You need to break up the surface area of the wine so as much of the liquid comes into contact with the air as possible. It elevates flavours and rounds off the sharp edges of high-tannin wines.
There are a few ways to do this depending on the situation and also the type of wine.
3 ways to aerate wine
Wine more than eight or nine years old needs to be treated quite gently. The older the wine, the longer it’s had to ‘age’, which essentially means tiny amounts of oxygen have already found their way into the bottle and have started a multitude of chemical reactions.
With very old wine, you can sometimes see it oxidise as you pour it out. It loses its brightness and can even turn brown. So you have to be careful aerating bottles that have been cellared.
The picnic version
Really, this is a last-resort option, but it does the trick in a pinch. First, pour a glass out then put the top back on the bottle and shake what’s left like a cocktail.
We heard this tip from a winemaker at their cellar door so it’s legit and it does work. However, because it’s quite a vigorous method, you shouldn’t do this with your best bottle or an old wine.
The single glass version
Special aerators that either fit to the top of the wine bottle or that you pour the wine through like a funnel work really well if you want to pour single glasses.
Holes in the sides of the aerator suck air in and cause bubbles through the wine as your pour. This maximises oxygen contact with the wine. The only downside is it can also be too rigorous and cause too much oxidisation with older or more delicate wines. It’s also a bit noisy and makes embarrassing sucking noises as it works.
The elegant dinner party version
For that real sense of style – and by far the gentlest and most controlled way to aerate wine, decanting wine is the best option for a number of reasons.
Pouring wine into a high quality crystal decanter like this Lismore Nouveau Decanting Carafe from Waterford Crystal not only allows your wine to travel and carefully oxygenate, but also brings a sense of occasion and elegance to the table.
In fact, pouring wine from a decanter generally, but this Waterford Lismore Nouveau decanting carafe specifically, somehow makes wine taste better – whether it aerates or not.
But decanting wine like this not only allows oxygen to permeate the wine gently, swirling it down the neck and leaving a broad surface area when the wine’s resting. It also means that sediment, which older wine tends to accumulate at the bottom of the bottle, can be easily separated as you pour.
Sediment is the solidified tannins that drop out of the liquid as wine ages. It’s a natural process, but the tannin solids are quite bitter and can make the wine cloudy if they’re mixed back in.
About Waterford Crystal
With a glass-making heritage that goes back at least 2500 years, Ireland’s elegant industry really came into its own when the Penrose brothers – George and William – founded Waterford Crystal in the eponymous southeastern harbour town in 1783.
Rescued from receivership in 1947, Waterford’s iconic Lismore design came from Czech chief designer Miroslav Havel, who spent many hours studying the last few surviving works of the Penrose brothers in the National Museum.
These days, Waterford Crystal still maintains that pinnacle of quality it’s always stood for.
The incredible level of craftsmanship is so clear just from holding the Lismore Nouveau decanting carafe, but when you start reading about the process of making these things you realise what an art form it is.
From carving wooden moulds from beechwood and pear that the glass is handblown into (these moulds only last a week because of the intense heat of the molten crystal) to the intricate decorations and patterns that master craftsmen cut by hand.
So much goes into each of these pieces of Waterford Crystal. You can read more about the craftsmanship here.
But the short and long if it is that wine seems to taste smoother, better and more luxurious from this decanter.
And it’s not just the process of aeration that’s doing it.
Do you aerate your wine? What’s your preferred way to do it?