Can an aerator "damage" wine?
- Midlife Mar 25, 2011 01:26 PM
In another post here (I wish I could remember exactly which one) a poster was defending a specific preservation product and tangentially referred to aerators "damaging" wine ............ at least I think that's the word that was used. With the rising use of Vinturis, Nuances, and the like I thought this might be a subject worth exploring.
I sometimes explain what happens with a Vinturi as similar to a Moroccan restaurant server pouring your tea from 5 feet above your cup (minus the distance), or suggest (with a wink or two) that you could put the wine in a blender as well. But DOES that injection of air from an aerator do anything really negative to wine?
I've been an 'aerator holdout' myself, but mostly because I like to experience wine the way the winemaker made it, or at least with no mechanical intervention. On the other hand I have loads of experience with wine lovers who swear by these devices. There are other devices that do little more than move the wine through a twisting tube and/or through a spherical space. These seem less potentially 'damaging', but I'm not sure they really DO anything.
What do you think?
That's an interesting question. I am not fond of mechanical devices to get air into my wine (in general). I also have mostly fragile wine in my cellar and IMO, an mechanical aerator seems to be too harsh on it. The most I do is double splash decant. Here is my non scientific idea about it:
My anecdotal experience is that mechanical devices might be okay for wines around 10 years old or younger. Ten year old wines seem to have a stiffer structure (if that makes sense) and can take alot of rough housing. They need more breathing time for their development, don't fade easily and using mechanical means in order to cut the decanting time down seems to be just fine. I have been to many wino friends homes and they use them just fine, but really young wines typically don't need alot of decanting time to begin with. I have not used an aerator on any really young wines. If they need it- I just wait the 30 minutes or so.
Older wines seem to be more susceptible to "shock" from being beaten/shaken up. Some older wines should not be decanted or aerated at all. They will lose subtle nuances. It is tricky to know which ones to decant and which ones not to. Some benefit from sitting in the wide bottom decanter on a counter for 2 or 3 hours -undisturbed until poured. I think that it is safer to "hand decant" them and "baby" them a bit- not squirt them through a device. No science behind it- just a feeling :)
IMO, yes, they do something--aerate the wine. I'm not sure they do much more than do breathing the bottle and decanting, but they do it faster.
Whether they "damage" wine depends on whether the wine--at the time--*tastes* better having been aerated. While this is largely subjective, generally people would agree that younger wines benefit more from aeration.
There are other tools that supposedly advance wines, e.g., the Clef du Vin. I personally think there is something "to" this, but others here vehemently disagree. In all these things, only you, your palate and wallet get to decide.
I have several versions of such devices (gifts), and have experienced the Venturi with some known PN's, plus a few younger Cab Sauvignons, and have not noticed anything positive, or negative, in those uncontrolled experiences. Still, I do not use mine, in the general course of things.
However, for many FR white Burgs, I will decant (carafe), prior to serving.
I usually will decant CB, CF and even some Merlots, prior to serving.
I am not a fan of decanting my older red Burgs, as I find that their "life" in the glass is a bit shortened, as it is, and do not want to do any damage.
Even with decanting, I will usually pour a "test glass" for myself, and kind of monitor the time in the decanter, and then declare "ready!" I do not normally do multiple decanting, nor do I shake the decanter, as some do.
I know that my comments do not answer the question, but are offered as a "how I like it" sort of reflection.
As a second "reflection," I will cite an instance with a lovely, middle-aged Hermitage. The wine was a bit "raw," upon pouring, but I hesitated to do the full decanting. I explored that wine, over a bit of time, and it did "improve" as time, and swirls in the glass, went by. One guest commented that the wine would have benefited from aeration with decanting, but I loved the exploration of that wine, as it opened up in the glass. Who was correct - me, or the guest? In the end, and with the time in the glass, that I afforded all guests, things sort of worked out. Had I decanted, the wine would possibly have benefited from the decanting/aeration, but then the guests would have missed the evolution.
Just some observations,
I have experienced them through the auspices of some of my overeager wine friends. As yet, I have not been favorably impressed enough to invest in any, and thankfully, none of my friends has gifted me with one.