Let That Wine Breathe

So you finally received that new shipment of Cabernet Sauvignon from your favorite winery.
2010. You’ve been waiting a half year for the shipment to arrive and now that it’s in your
hands, you want to sample it right now. Or cellar it to let it age. But since we can never tell
what the future holds, instant gratification triumphs. But since it’s a very young wine, you need
to decant it right? Pour it into a carafe and let it breathe over several hours right? Hmm, several
hours isn’t really instant gratification. You could sample it right from the bottle but it may be
a little “closed” in which case that $50 price tag seems like a waste. But you don’t want to wait
several hours. What do you do?

What about accelerated aeration? Using a device that quickly aerates the wine thus opening up
flavors that would have remained hidden or at least muted if the wine was simply sampled
straight from the bottle. Do these devices exist? There actually are quite a few of these on the
market and all claim that they make your glass of wine taste better by speeding up the
oxygenation process. And they’ll only set you back about the cost of a nice bottle of Cabernet.

The Players

In lieu of having you spend your hard earned dollars sampling these devices, the Gochiso
Gourmet will give you an objective review of some of these devices. Basically all of these devices
aerate your wine to about the same degree as decanting the wine and letting it sit over the
course of an evening but it’s done immediately without waiting. Why aerate at all? Oxygenating
a young wine helps expose underlying flavor components that either are hidden of masked by a
dominant component like fruit especially in a young California Cabernet. When the wine is
aerated, secondary aromas start to appear like herbal components or secondary fruit flavors and
the increased oxygenation can also soften some of the hard tannins in young red wines
improving the balance and mouth feel of the wine.
So I assembled a group of wine “toys” that I have in my collection. To be as objective as
possible, I used the same shaped wine glass (Riedel Zinfandel glass since only about 2 ounces
were poured) and poured the same amount wine with each device. The wine was swirled three
times before sniffing and sipping and compared to the same wine poured straight from the
bottle without the benefit of any aeration device. The wine in question was the recent release of
2010 Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon ($58) – as young as any Cabernet on the market right
now. True objectivity would have necessitated a blind tasting but that would have required a
2nd person… and the Mrs. was busy in the kitchen. True professionalism also would have
dictated that I spit the wine between samples so as not to have the alcohol cloud my
evaluation. But I’m not really a professional and I definitely don’t spit $58 wine.

Vinturi $39.95
Probably the most recognized name of all the wine aeration products on the market today. It’s
basically a small acrylic cup directly draining through a narrow tube. Opposing perpendicular
openings connected to the drain tube suck air into the drain tube creating an exiting vortex of
wine that’s now fully aerated as it drops into your glass. They also make a travel version of the
Vinturi complete with a nifty travel case but the cup opening is just a little wider than the
bottle opening so I’d advise maroon colored shirts and dark pants when attempting to use the
travel version!

Host Tilt Variable Aerator $25
An acrylic pourer that aerates wine to varying degrees depending on the angle of the bottle.
This aerator is placed into the uncorked bottle and aerates the wine as it’s poured via a single
opening that draws air into the stream of wine. A 30 degree bottle angle mildly aerates the
wine, up to 60 degrees moderately aerates the wine and past 60 degrees fully aerates the wine.

Soiree $24.99
The simplest design as it’s simply a glass ball that inserts into the opened wine bottle. Three
conical protrusions in the ball agitate thus aerate the wine that enters the ball.

Trudeau $24.99
Another acrylic pourer that inserts into the uncorked wine bottle but with two aerating
openings and an angled pouring neck so that only a 15 degree angle is needed to aerate the wine.

Eisch Wine Glass $37.99
I also included a wine glass that supposedly “softens” the wine due to “some’ chemical reaction
with the crystalline structure of the glass. Supposedly, 2 to 4 minutes spent in the glass has the
same effect as 2 to 4 hours in a decanter.

The Verdict

Straight from the bottle
Loads of currant with a touch of vanilla on the nose. An immediate hit of coarse tannins on the
palate then dark fruit finishing a little hot (alcohol).

Host Tilt Variable Aerator
A mixture of currant and red fruit on the nose. Red fruit hits the palate first with a noticeable
reduction in the alcohol and softer tannins. It softened the tannins and alcohol the most while
letting fruit come to the forefront.

Probably not utilized to its full potential as it seems the wine bottle needs to be totally
inverted for maximum aeration to occur but I deferred since it had the loosest connection in
the bottle and I didn’t want Cabernet covering my kitchen floor. Not much change compared
to no aeration at all with just a hint of alcohol softening.

It improved the nose the most placing red and black cherry before currants and still allowed the
vanilla notes to remain. It improved the palate by reducing the alcohol and softening the
tannins though just a touch behind the Host Tilt Variable Aerator.

Similar to the Trudeau but just a point or two behind. It creates the most “sucking” noise
drawing air into the stream of wine but it does require two hands (or the optional base for
double the price) since this device isn’t inserted into the neck of the bottle.

It actually muted the nose where I really had to strain just to get the currant and fruit notes on
the nose. It softened the palate but also seemed to reduce the fruit flavors too.

Overall I’d say the best device was the Trudeau with the Vinturi coming in a close second and
the Host Tilt a close third. Or you could simply decant your bottle via the Chuck Furuya “glug-
glug” method by emptying the contents of 1 bottle of wine in one decanter and continually
transfer the contents to a second decanter. Or you could simply have your wine with food in
which case the tannins play a vital role cleansing your palate between bites. Or just start a
collection of wines only uncorking those that have “rested” another 5 to 10 years after receipt…