Wine Aerobics: Why you should aerate your wine

Sunday, July 19, 2009

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About a month ago I ran a poll on this site asking about wine decanter usage and consumption levels in preparation for this piece. I'd like to thank you all for responding- I appreciate it.

This is a guest post from Andrew Lazorchak from Soirée and Vineyard Vlog. Andrew has trained as a sommelier and is an avid wine enthusiast living in Napa Valley.


Every time I speak at a wine show or class, there is one common point I make. Make sure that you treat your wine right – the golden rule. Not only will you get maximum enjoyment from your wine, but you will maximize your R.O.I. (return on investment).

As the polls tell us, Bob and my suspicions were right. 69% of the population admits to not decanting wine or decanting rarely. While 18% of the voters said they use a decanter weekly. My statistic, which is yet to be validated, is that 97 bottles of 100 sold never see a decanter.

Why aerate?

There are many reasons that wine will improve with the chance to breathe. Appellation America wrote a great article on decanting. One of their points is that wine is released quicker than ever before. Reds, in particular, used to be released up to 4 years after the vintage, and now are rolling out, in some cases, in under 12 months. Wine making has also advanced, we can now make richer wines with lots more “girth”. Alcohol levels have been ever-increasing as a result of grapes being harvested later with higher sugar levels, which also make for a richer wine. In short, wines, especially heartier ones, need time to meld. Exposure to oxygen helps accelerate the process of melding and will deliver a wine more true to the style the winemaker intended. Gary Vaynerchuk also shares a similar message on WLTV.

You should aerate your wines:
  • To help integrate the flavors
  • Release the aromatics
  • Expand the structure and temper excessive tannin
  • Blow-off some of the heat that higher-alcohol wines have. (alcohol can mask the flavor embedded in the wine)
How to aerate or decant:
  1. Wine decanter: takes 45 minutes to 6 hours, pour the wine into a decanter and let it breathe.
  2. Wine Aerators are timely and handy. Plus they tend to be cheaper than a classic decanter. If you are short on time or don’t want to drink the whole bottle check out the WWP aerator reviews.
How long do you let the wine breathe?
  • Trust your taste buds. If you decant or aerate, assess the wine as you go, but everyone’s palate is different. A simple pour with an aerator will show an immediate change in flavor, and you can keep serving with that aerator until the wine seems to be “mellow” enough for your palate.
What wines benefit most from aeration?
  • Reds in general have more “body” to them and will typically benefit from aeration.
  • Whites can be aerated but have less “structure” than reds, so they require less aeration. Their aromatics will be most noticeably changed with aeration, and if a white is too "oaky"- give it some air. But taste as you go.
  • Younger wines benefit the most. Older wines have had time to meld and are more susceptible to aeration or over-oxidation. Any wine under 8 years old should be fine for aeration, and older wines can use air too, but again you are the judge of what tastes good.
Simple tips to make your wine taste to its optimal flavor:
  • Aerate your wine.
  • Serving Temperature. White Wines: 45-50 °F Red Wines: 50-65 °F (link)
  • Glassware. Even if you just get 2 nice glasses – I am confident you will like using them and they will heighten your wine enjoyment.
Thanks again to everyone that voted, the data collected is invaluable. I hope you enjoyed this brief overview of wine aeration/decanting. The topic of aeration is a big one, and with merit. I hope this has inspired you to take a few simple steps to heightening your personal wine enjoyment.

Play with your wine, explore the flavors and many varietals - and drink every bottle like it’s your last!

Cheers,
Andrew Lazorchak

I'd like to thank Andrew for sharing his thoughts with us in this forum. He is truly a class act and I'd encourage you to follow him on Twitter: @WineSoiree

As part of this post, Andrew from Soirée would like to send a complimentary Soirée ($25 retail value) to the person who writes the best comment or story on wine aeration. Leave your comment below by July 31, 2009 and the winner will be announced shortly after. We look forward to hearing from you.

Update (August 4th, 2009): We've announced a winner! Thanks to everyone who read this piece and/or left a comment. We really appreciate it.

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