Menu Wine Breather Review

Monday, December 6, 2010

A few weeks ago I received a sample of a new type of wine decanting product - the Menu Wine Breather.  It's a hybrid sort of device that combines characteristics of single-serving active wine aerators (like the Vinturi and the Soiree) with characteristics of an old school passive wine decanter.  The net result is a device that promises to aerate an entire bottle of wine in a couple of minutes.  I used it for all the wines I served on Thanksgiving so while that experience is fresh in my head I thought to share my thoughts on it for you holiday shopping consideration.

Before we get too far have a look at this video to see how the product operates:



Design

The first thing I noticed when unboxing the product is its contemporary Danish design aesthetic.  It's got a Breaking Bad chemistry lab kind of feel to it, and the fit and finish is thoughtful and high quality.  I was a little confused how the three pieces on the top of the device go together but after some experimenting and an E-mail to the manufacturer I was able to figure it out.  The part that confused me is a rubber gasket that remains on the vessel after you remove the pourer:

Usability

Once I rinsed the product off and put the top on I was ready to decant my first bottle of wine.  From watching the video I understood how the device was intended to be used.  The fact that it aerates an entire bottle all at once makes it a good match for holiday gatherings.  On a weeknight when you're having just a glass or two you probably don't want to decant an entire bottle.  But when you're serving a few bottles in succession to a group, the Wine Breather's ability to aerate an entire bottle in just a couple of minutes is very useful.  A traditional decanter would be sitting there full of the first bottle of wine for an hour or more and subsequent bottles likely wouldn't have time for more than a splash decant (where you purposely pour the wine into the decanter such that it splashes on the bottom of the vessel and aerates the wine a bit in the process) and some aggressive swirling around in the vessel and each glass.

It's a little nerve wracking at first when the bottle is mostly full and it's completely inverted on top of the Wine Breather.  I kept a hand on it to make sure it didn't topple over.  Guests and kids were quite fascinated by yet another wine contraption I've busted out over the years.  Never discount theatrics as a means for getting people interested in a wine accessory.

I like that I can pour the wine into the vessel and let it sit for a few hours if I have the time.  Or, if I'm in a hurry I can quickly pour it back into the bottle (for a so-called "double decant").  I prefer pouring wine from the bottle it came in rather than from a decanter because people can see the label of the wine -and- decanters can be tricky to pour from (the last glass in a bottle especially).

One minor issue I had with my test unit is that the silver part of the pourer separated from its black housing.  This makes it a little difficult to remove the pourer from the neck of the vessel for cleaning the device:

How it Works

The Wine Breather reminds me a bit of the Soiree (review) because of the way wine cascades along the sides of the glass and exposes the wine to air in the process.

I used the device on three bottles for Thanksgiving.  For each, I tasted the wine directly from the bottle to get a feel for how much decanting it seemed to require and then based on that I'd more or less aggressively use the device.

The first bottle was a 2005 Cakebread Benchland Select Cabernet Sauvignon.  At 5 years old, it was quite open aromatically with soft tannins.  It didn't need a great deal of decanting so I poured it into the Wine Breather, let it sit for an hour or so and then poured the wine back into the bottle and served it from there.  Nice wine - good result.

The next bottle was a young 2008 Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir.  The wine was very limited aromatically and although it showed promise on the palate needed some serious encouragement to come out of its shell.  I decided to double decant it with the Wine Breather and then taste it.  It seemed to help a little but I thought it could still use more decanting so I did another pass through the device and then back into the bottle.  A quadruple decant!  The wine was still pretty bashful and tight aromatically but its flavors were more apparent on the palate and its finish was impressive.

The third and final bottle was a 2006 Leonetti Merlot from Washington state.  This wine presented a unique challenge in that it had silty sediment in the bottle.  However, it was quite Bordeaux-like in style (graphite and tar on top of powerful fruit) so I thought it would be a good idea to run it through the Wine Breather.  It ended up jostling the fine sediment quite a bit and each glass was quite murky.  This particular style of wine would be better served by traditional decanting for the purpose of letting the sediment fall to the bottom of the device and gently pouring off wine from the top.  Lesson learned, but this an objection many will raise about wine accessories that involved inverting the bottle for optimal effectiveness.

Blind Tasting

I'm a firm believer in using blind tasting to assess the effectiveness of products like these.  What I'm looking for when tasting is more pronounced aromatics (as opposed to being closed), rounder flavors (as opposed to being sharp), and a smoother finish.

The first test I did was a head to head blind tasting of a glass of wine that was poured right out of the bottle vs. one that went through the Menu Wine Breather.  For this test I used a 2007 Brancaia Toscana Tre - a well regarded quality-price-ratio favorite that seems to catch a lot of comments on CellarTracker that it needs air.  I couldn't tell the difference between the glass passed through the Menu and the one that was not.  Tie.

I thought - hmm.  I need to create a situation where there is a control sample (pop 'n pour) and a should-be-good sample (decanted a couple of hours in a traditional decanter) and then see how the Menu does compared to these other two.  For this test I cracked open a bottle of 2006 Produttori Barbaresco - young for a Barabresco - and invited a friend over.  I then poured the wine 3 ways for him and vice versa.

We both preferred the decanted wine over the pop 'n pour wine however we disagreed on whether the Menu was better or worse than the other two wines.  My result:

1st: Menu
2nd: Decanter
3rd: Pop 'n Pour

My friend's result:

1st: Decanter
2nd: Pop 'n Pour
3rd: Menu

Hmm - where to go from here?  I did another 3-way test myself with a 2008 75 Wine Company "The Sum" - fairly big, bold and young Napa Cabernet.  The result:

1st: Decanter
2nd: Menu
3rd: Pop 'n Pour

Conclusion: For me, the Menu performed well in blind tasting overall.  It performed as good or better than pop 'n pour in each test -and- it produced similar results to a 2-hour decant in 2 out of 3 tests.  I like the way it can quickly aerate an entire bottle of wine, and if I feel like a wine could benefit from more air it's easy to run it through the device multiple times back and forth between the bottle and the Menu Wine Breather. 

Strengths:
  • Provides an easy way to double-decant a bottle of wine
  • Can achieve aeration results similar to a decanter in a fraction of the time
  • Easy to decant multiple times quickly for accelerated aeration
  • Relatively compact for a full-size decanter
  • Modern "chemistry lab" styling
Weaknesses:
  • Works best when decanting an entire bottle - not so well for single pours
  • Operates based on inversion which potentially stirs up sediment in some wines
Overall Result:
    WWP: 4/5 Stars (recommended with some reservations)

    Here's some more discussion about the Menu Wine Breather from wine(accessorized) 

    Here is a link to the product on Amazon:
     
    Giveaway!  Leave a comment below by Friday, December 8th at 7:00 am EST to be entered in a drawing to win your own Menu Wine Breather shipped directly to you from the manufacturer.  (United States and Canada only please.)  If you'd rather keep it on the down low drop me an E-mail at wellesleywinepress@gmail.com

    To increase your chances of winning, tweet a link to this blog post and you'll get a 2nd entry.  Click here to pre-populate a Twitter status update (you'll have a chance to edit before sending the tweet).

    Winner will be announced Friday morning.  Good luck!

    Update: Tara is our winner! Congratulations - here are the details.

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