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Long Awaited Blind Tasting: Vinturi vs. Soirée

Monday, November 24, 2008

Introduction

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
  • Decanted
  • Soirée
  • Vinturi
In order to emulate both the decanted and pop 'n pour scenarios concurrently, we poured from two bottles. Both bottles were removed from my wine refrigerator (kept at 59F) 2 hours prior to the tasting. One of the bottles was opened and poured into a decanter immediately. My decenter is made by Eisch. I'm not certain of the model since it was a gift, but I have a link to one that looks very similar to it at the end of this review. The other was kept closed and came to room temperature so there would be no temperature variation between the two bottles:



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.

Results

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:

Taster 1:
  1. Soirée
  2. Decanter
  3. Pop 'n Pour
  4. Vinturi
Taster 2:
  1. Soirée
  2. Pop 'n Pour
  3. Vinturi
  4. Decanter
Taster 3:
  1. Pop 'n Pour
  2. Decanter
  3. Soirée
  4. Vinturi
Overall Results (1 is best, 4 is worst):
  1. Soirée (1.66 Average from scores of 1, 1, 3)
  2. Pop 'n Pour (2 Average from scores of 3, 2, 1)
  3. Decanter (2.66 Average from scores of 2, 4, 2)
  4. Vinturi (3.66 Average from scores of 4, 3, 4)
Possible Conclusions
  • "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.)
Closing Thoughts

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.

If you've found my reviews helpful and would like to buy any of the products listed through my Amazon Associates link (where a small percentage of the purchase supports The Wellesley Wine Press) please use one of these links:







Use the following links to visit the manufacturer's web sites directly:
Here's a link to a 7-Way Blind Aerator comparison I did after completing this piece.
    Question of the Day: What do you think of these results?

    15 comments:

    chief rocker said...

    Bob,

    What really gets me going here, is your enthusiasm and efforts into a subject matter that I think is still ahead of its time - aerating.

    Great choice on the wine. You could not have picked a more classical rich red wine region that can resound no matter the drinkers preference old vs. new world.

    I am surprised that the pop-n-pour did so well. And I am just "tickled" by the way the Soiree prevailed.

    Cheers to you for making & taking the time to do this. I hope this 1st bout can enable your fans to confidently know what to look for, if they want to embrace the emerging topic of aeration. Which I personally feel is very important, and enables wine to be appreciated at a 5-fold difference.

    Thanks & Look forward to more exciting reviews!

    Heath said...

    Bob,
    I just ordered the Vinturi last week, and am very excited to give this a go at my own home. I will tell you though, I had guests over Friday night, that didn't understand the concept of aerating. They were wowed by the soiree, and a bit bashful at first (after 2 glasses they weren't afraid of it), due to the glass and the tightness that can prevail if you fit it too snug in the bottle (getting it out part). I explained that they must hold the bottle straight up at a 90 degree angle, so the wine pours out, touching the outer glass of the soiree.

    I'll let you know what I think when I do my home blind tasting. I think I will use a Liberty School Syrah for this tasting, as it is tight when you first open it, but gets more bountiful if you aerate it.

    Great job on the review and I am sure your assistant was just lovely... :)

    Michelle said...

    Well, this was quite enlightening. I was thinking of purchasing an aerator for Christmas and hadn't yet decided which one (I was waiting for this side-by-side tasting!) I was leaning towards the Vinturi, but these results now have me leaning towards the Soiree. Do you think it makes a difference which type of wine you use it with? I admit that we do not have many Bordeaux in our "cellar"....we have been leaning more towards Pinot Noirs and Spanish/Portugese reds (Tempranillos, etc.). We have also stocked up on Syrahs for the winter (best wine with chili, I think!) So my question is...will we find a difference in flavor with these wines as noticable as with your Bordeaux?

    chief rocker said...

    Michelle,

    In Bob's first review of the Soiree. I commented on a lady from Napa (Lucy at CalWInes.com) she has both Soiree and the Vinturi. She said that she will not use a Vinturi on lighter bodied wines (Pinot Noir was her example)as these wines are made from grapes withthinner skins, which in turn means less structure, tannin, and color. In particular, Lucy felt that the Vinturi is so aggressive that it actually "strips the fruit out of the wine", and for that reason alone she will not use it on a Pinot Noir. Another thing to note, if you go to Pinot Country (Oregon) you will see the Soiree is extremely prevalent in a lot of the tasting rooms. (See the opening comment in Bob's first review of Soiree)

    All in all, Vinturi has a name, a following, and does aerate wine. However, it does lack subtlety and finesse that lighter wines require. Plus, I think the trends in wine making are getting away from "Hedonistic, Fruit bombs" (to quote Gary Vaynerchuk).

    Also, there is a school of thought that goes with the Soiree. Which is that the closer you get the bottle to being inverted, the more aeration you will get, and conversely the lower angle you pour with the Soiree, the less "action" and opening the wine sees. So in some sense, the Soiree can be tailored to the level of aeration you desire.

    Hope that helps.

    Bob said...

    Thanks for the comments everyone! Blind tasting is certainly a humbling and interesting experience. It really makes me appreciate the work that professional wine critics do.

    4 wines is quite a few to compare. It's easier to taste 2 and say you prefer one or the other. When tasting 4 wines I found it easy to "fall in love" with one of the wines and latch onto it as my favorite. It's amazing what happens when you remove the bottle, the label and the "magic act" associated with wine aerators. As with other blind tastings I've done in the past- the wine has to stand on its own merits and wines being tasted tend to become more similar the dissimilar in my experience.

    I think I might do another tasting where I just taste 3 variations- Vinturi, Soiree, and Pop 'n Pour. This time I'll do it live on camera, along with the aerating done on camera as well (and perhaps an appearance by my lovely assistant!) I think it would make for interesting theater- the only challenge is finding time where it's at all quiet around dinner time. :)

    Heath- I'll look forward to hearing your impressions of the two devices side by side. We'd love to have you over some time if the distance between us isn't too far.

    Michelle- great question about the varietals. I think I asked both Andrew and Rio that question and I think the respond was "try it with and without aerating and see which you like better". I can't say that aerating has ever hurt a wine in my experience so I do tend to use one of the products whenever I drink wine- it's not like they're hard to use. Although last night I cracked open a Pinot Noir that was beautiful from the moment I opened it- I didn't feel like I needed to do anything with it at all to get it to open up so I didn't aerate it at all.

    Nancy said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    Anonymous said...

    By any chance will you add the other aerater that you reviewed to the blind test?

    ericjs said...

    You missed the correct possible conclusion: you don't really have enough data to make any conclusion.

    If the 3 tasters weren't all over the map, your results might be meaningful. But even if ignore #3 who preferred Pop n' Pour (maybe this person like a rougher wine, considering it more flavor), and focuse on the two who ranked the Souree first: there 2,3,4 choices are entirely different. One preferred pop n pour to decanted, the other had the reverse preference. What sense can we make of that?

    Your 3 tasters had such different results that averaging them together isn't meaningful--either differences in taste between these people is very great in which case a sample of 3 is not meaningful to determine what most people like better (if that itself is useful), or the taste differences weren't very significant and what the different results are is randomness / psycology (imagined difference / irrational preference).

    To have any hope of getting meaningful results, you need to use more more people, say a dozen, and perform this with several different wines.

    Right now all it tells me is save my money because god knows if any of these products is effective at all.

    ericjs said...

    One more thing I noticed. One thing that IS consistent in the ratings is that all 3 people rated pop n pour above vinturi! How do you reconcile this with your review of the vinturi? Either the vinturi doesn't really improve wine and you were mistaken earlier or these new results for whatever reason are invalid.

    Robert Dwyer said...

    Hi Eric,

    You contradict yourself when you first say that we don't have enough data points, but then later say 3 would be sufficient if we agreed with one another. The required sample size [to satisfy you] shouldn't be a function of the preferences of the tasters.

    What do you think when 2 wine magazines rate wines dramatically differently? Do you think that we need more wine ratings magazines (like maybe a dozen) to weigh in to determine whether a wine is good or bad? I don't. My point is this: Wine tasting is just one person's preference for that wine, under those conditions at that time. It's not hard science.

    I took the time to conduct this blind tasting and write it up. If you don't find value in it, I can't say that makes me happy. But I'd like to let you know that your comments come of as rude and I can only hope you were having a bad day when you wrote them and that you're in better spirits now.

    Cheers!
    Bob

    Anonymous said...

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    Di said...

    Thanks for your review, I have just ordered the soiree after your recommendation. I don't drink but host parties with people who love wine so I think your blog is a great help to me.

    Jeffrey said...

    Bob,
    I have tried the Vinturi, the Soiree, magnetic coasters, and other Vinturi and Soiree wannabee knockoffs, and am THOROUGHLY convinced that the Vinturi and Soiree are the only two that I would use. The other aerators on the market do move the wine around, but do not fully aerate the wine as well as V&S.
    For lighter reds, I have used and strongly suggest using the Vinturi for white wines as this version is not as aggresive as the Vinturi for reds and therefore doesn't strip the fruity taste from lighter reds.
    My biggest disappointments were the Decantus and Respirer. Very poor results from both.

    thayne said...

    Thank you so much for this experiment! I only wish I read this before my purchases. I'm the proud owner of a decanter (1st purchase) the vinturi (2nd), the soiree (3rd). The soiree is my go-to wine accoutrement and your blog affirms why. Salud!

    Robert Dwyer said...

    @Di Thanks for your comment- hope you enjoy the Soiree.

    @Jeffrey Great to hear from someone who has tried so many aerators! Interesting approach using the Vinturi White on lighter reds. I've been testing the Vinturi white non-blind for a while now and the results have been good. I'll have to do a blind tasting with that and write it up soon.

    @thayne I think I acquired these in the same order you did- Decanter, Vinturi, Soiree. Very interesting to hear that you've gotten better results with the Soiree than the Vinturi. The Soiree has won both of the comparative blind tastings I've done (the one written up in this piece as well as a subsequent 7-way tasting I performed by myself).

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