Monday, November 24, 2008
Some of my first entries on this blog were dedicated to a class of wine gadgets known as aerators. Wine aerators are designed to rapidly "open up" wine and give it more desirable aromatics and smoother flavors. Traditionally, this is achiveved by decanting- a process where you pour the wine into a vessel that exposes as much of the wine's surface area to air as possible in an effort to aerate the wine more rapidly than it otherwise would. Within the last 5 years a class of products have emerged that claim to accelerate the process of decanting such that you decant "on the fly" on an individual serving basis. Two in particular that I focused on were the Vinturi (review, interview) and the Soirée (review, interview).
How We Tasted
In an effort to see which of these devices works better, I set up a blind tasting. For the tasting, myself and two friends tasted the same wine 4 ways:
- Pop 'n Pour
The wine I chose for this tasting was a 2005 Caronne Ste. Gemme. It received 91 points from the Wine Spectator, and was highlighted as one of their "Smart Buys" with a release price of $17.
I chose the wine for this tasting because I felt it would be a good test wine for the aerators and for decanting in general. Red Bordeaux is one of the few varietals widely accepted as being age-worthy, but at the same time those of us who are impatient -or- want to sample young Bordeaux to assess whether we should buy more find reason to crack open a bottle before it's time. A good ballpark in general for cellaring Bordeaux is 10 years. At 3 years old we are drinking this wine very young. According to James Suckling, Spectator's chief Bordeaux taster, this particular wine should be best after 2011; hence the need for decanting or aerating.
My beautiful assistant (not pictured, sorry) randomly determined which wine went with which letter and poured the wines in a separate room, 4 glasses each for the 3 of us:
We were each presented with 4 glasses marked "A, B, C, D":
We then took notes on our preferences and rank ordered the wines 1 through 4 with 1 being our favorite and 4 our least favorite.
Three of us did the tasting. Each of us are enthusiastic about wine, but we have varying degrees of experience with wine. Of the three of us, I would call myself "intermediate"- I am Taster 2. From least experienced to most experienced, here are our results:
- Pop 'n Pour
- Pop 'n Pour
- Pop 'n Pour
- Soirée (1.66 Average from scores of 1, 1, 3)
- Pop 'n Pour (2 Average from scores of 3, 2, 1)
- Decanter (2.66 Average from scores of 2, 4, 2)
- Vinturi (3.66 Average from scores of 4, 3, 4)
- "The Soirée is a Better Product than the Vinturi"
Averaging the scores certainly does show that the Soirée outperformed the Vinturi, and the Soirée was the favorite wine of 2 our of 3 tasters. I will certainly perform this tasting again with a different wine and different guests.
- "You Guys Don't Know What You're Doing"
The fact that Pop 'n Pour on average outperformed the decanter was surprising. Going into the tasting, I was expecting the Decanter to be 1st, Pop 'n Pour to be last and the two instantaneous aerators to be somewhere between. However, the results weren't aligned in this manner. Each of us did indicate noticable differences between the wines being tasted (though the difference wasn't extremely pronounced in my view) so we know that we were at least perceiving differences between the products. Whether we like the results or not- they were the observations made by real people and likely the kind of people you'd have over to your house for wine, so for me these observations are perhaps more meaningful than any expert analysis could be.
- "Wine Gadgets Don't Work Very Well"
This could be true. If you want to test whether aerating or decanting is something you find beneficial, try this: Open up a bottle of wine, pour yourself a glass and drink it 3 or 4 hours later. If you can't notice a discernible difference compared to a glass from a freshly opened bottle, decanting/aerating may be a waste of time (and money.)
I'd like to thank my two guests that night for their enthusiastic participation. Having multiple opinions really makes the results more illuminating I think.
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Here's a link to a 7-Way Blind Aerator comparison I did after completing this piece.