Wine aerators are one of those tools you’ve probably heard about, and people have told you that you should get one, but you’re not exactly sure how they work or if you really need one. So, what does a wine aerator do?
Wine aerators help expose the wine to air, oxidizing the wine and changing its flavor profile. It is an essential tool in preparing many red wines for drinking. You should pour your wine through a wine aerator to make your red wine taste better.
In this article, I will discuss what a wine aerator does and why you should get one if you don’t have one already.
What Does a Wine Aerator Do?
Have you ever opened a bottle of wine and immediately noticed that it smells like alcohol, or worse, rotten eggs? This is because of compounds like ethanol and sulfites, which either occur naturally during the winemaking process or are added to protect wine from destabilization.
Wine aerators work by quickening the processes of oxidation and evaporation that wine needs to go through to get rid of unnecessary compounds that alter the flavor of the wine.
While compounds like ethanol and sulfite are essential in preserving wine, wines in which they’re overly present require aeration to reach their ideal aromatic and flavor profiles. Oxidation occurs when the ethanol built up in the wine is exposed to air, thus converting the ethanol into a different compound that alters the flavor profile.
Compounds like sulfites and ethanol are known as “volatile” compounds, meaning they quickly evaporate when exposed to oxygen.
Using an aerator quickens the oxidation and evaporation processes by exposing more of the surface area of the wine to oxygen, so it doesn’t need to sit and “breathe” to be ready for consumption. It also allows the tannins found in red wines to soften and blend with the rest of the liquid, bringing about a more robust flavor profile.
When Should I Use a Wine Aerator?
Wine aerators should be used when drinking a wine that would benefit from “breathing” prior to drinking. While a wine aerator is a beneficial tool in preparing many wines, not all wines need to be aerated, and in fact, there are many wines you should never aerate.
Wines that need to breathe include those with a large number of tannins in them, typically younger, fuller-bodied reds. These wines are ideal for aerating because of the softening of tannins that occurs during the aeration process.
Red wines that benefit from aeration include cabernet sauvignons, merlots, and malbecs.
However, reds that are lighter-bodied, such as chiantis or pinot noirs, don’t typically require aeration due to their comparative lack of tannins.
While occasionally a fuller-bodied white wine would benefit from being aerated, such as an oaky chardonnay, almost no white wines need aeration, as tannin buildup tends to come from the pigmented skins of grapes, more present in red wines.
If you’re unsure if you should aerate a specific bottle of wine, simply ask the purveyor you’re buying it from, and they’ll be able to give you details about that particular bottle.
Recommended Wine Aerators
Although not necessary for every wine, a wine aerator is a helpful tool to have around the house, especially considering how budget-friendly most of them are.
Below, I will recommend my three favorite wine aerators.
Vinturi Red Wine Aerator
A personal favorite, the Vinturi Red Wine Aerator (Amazon) is straightforward, budget-friendly, and highly effective. To use the Vinturi aerator, you simply hold it over your glass with one hand and pass the wine through the aerator from the bottle.
It includes a small filter at the entrance of the aerator designed to catch small bits of cork and sediment that may come out of the bottle while pouring.
The aerator uses patented technology to increase the velocity of the wine entering the aerator while decreasing the pressure, resulting in the appropriate amount of oxygen coming into contact with the wine.
The Vinturi red wine aerator is a must-have for any wine drinker, and its built-in stand and ability to go in the dishwasher make it a low-maintenance and practical choice.
Coravin Timeless Aerator
Considered the pinnacle in many wine accessories, Coravin Wine Preservation System Aerator (Amazon) offers a range of products designed to enhance your wine-drinking experience. While not a standalone item, the timeless aerator from Coravin is an attachment to their wine preservation systems.
However, it’s not compatible with their Pivot wine preservation system.
The Coravin Aerator is unique because you do not actually have to uncork a bottle of wine when using it in conjunction with their preservation systems. The preservation system penetrates the wine cork, and the aerator aerates the wine without having to open the bottle, meaning you can savor glasses of wine from the same bottle for years.
Aervana Original One-Touch Wine Aerator
Using their unique “wine tap” design, the Aervana Original: Electric Wine Aerator and Pourer / Dispenser - Air Decanter - Personal Wine Tap for Red and White Wine (Amazon) is placed on the top of a wine bottle and uses pressure to pull wine up through its suction straw. The pressure aerates the wine that enters your glass, which you simply place underneath the “tap.”
If you’re drinking bottles of red wine in which you may suspect a large amount of sediment, this feature saves the sediment from being stirred into the wine and ending up in your glass.
An added bonus of the Aervana Aerator means that no pouring of wine means no accidental wine stains. However, the downside is that the straw doesn’t reach the bottom of the bottle, meaning you will have to pour whatever is left at the end without the aerator.
The purpose of wine aerators is to oxygenate the wine at a significantly quicker rate than you would have to wait if you were to aerate it in your glass or a decanter. This can take upwards of 20 minutes, and in some cases, an hour.
There are several highly reputable wine aerators on the market today that fit any budget.
While you don’t need an aerator for every type of wine, I highly recommend having one in your possession to use whenever you have a wine that you wish to aerate quickly.