Many wine experts will agree that most red wines need to be aerated before they are consumed. This process exposes these wines to the air prior to drinking, usually opening their flavours and letting the wine comfortably settle into their own taste and character. Both a decanter and an aerator will help in this process, but what is the difference between the two and when should you use these techniques? Ideal Wine Company has plenty of tips to guide you through the process.
A decanter and an aerator both serve a similar purpose. They expand the surface area of wine, which allows the air to mingle with it. Whether placing the wine in a larger vessel, a decanter, or forcing air to be circulated throughout it, an aerator, the result is a wine with an expanded aromatic profile and softer tannins. So, what’s the difference between the two?
Decanter – the preferred choice for many
Decanters are wide, tall, glass pitchers that are used to serve wine. They give the wine a wide surface area that is exposed to the surrounding air. As the wine mixes with the air, the process results in a reduction in tannins, chemicals which create a drying sensation in the mouth, as well as the development of the bouquet. Through doing this, it is easier to smell and identify the essence of the wine. Uncorking the bottle in advance of serving does not lead to this result, as it will not infuse enough air into the bottle. The wide surface area of the decanter is key to this process. This is the preferred method for many people, as it works slowly. This slow process allows air to mix organically with the wine and can last for hours without spoiling.
Old reds benefit from some amount of decanting. This is because some chemicals and tannins can begin to bind together and create sediment in the bottle after an amount of time in the bottle. This is generally a non-issue in wines that are younger than 10 years. However, after reaching the decade mark, sediment begins to be a concern and decanting can help separate it from the wine.
Aerator – a useful speedy tool
Although the decanter may be the preferred method for allowing wine to breathe, an aerator is still a useful tool. Much like a decanter, it serves the purpose of mingling air with wine. In this method, the wine is poured into a funnel-like device, which infuses air into the wine as it passes from the bottle to the glass. The main benefit of this method is time, as it is a much quicker process. Air is infused as it is poured, which has the benefit of highlighting the bouquet and tannins without the necessity of time.
Young reds often benefit the most from aeration, including Bordeaux and Cabernet Sauvignon.
When should I use these methods?
Not all wines need to be infused with air to be enjoyed. As a rule, plan on decanting or aerating red wines and not white. This is because red wines have a higher tannin profile and will benefit from allowing air to infuse and mellow the tannins. However, there are exceptions. when a white wine is full bodied and dry, such as a White Bordeaux or Alsace, it should be decanted for 30 minutes before serving, being careful not to warm the wine.
Finally, there are some red wine groups that should not be aerated. This includes softer reds, such as Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, and lower priced wines.