Aerating Wine in a Flash
Published January 1, 2012. From Cook's Illustrated.
What if you want to pour a glass of wine and you haven't planned ahead? Use this trick to quickly aerate your bottle.
Red wines—especially young, undeveloped ones—often benefit from a breathing period after opening so that oxygen can break down tannins and sulfur compounds, softening harsh flavors. But merely uncorking a bottle and letting it sit for a bit is insufficient. In order to truly aerate wine, as much of its surface area as possible must be exposed to oxygen. Typically, this so-called hard decanting is accomplished by pouring the wine into a wide, shallow vessel and letting it rest for up to several hours.
But what if you want to pour a glass and you didn’t plan ahead? While specialized wine-aerating gadgets can speed things along (our favorite, the Nuance Wine Finer, costs $30), we’d also heard that immediate decanting can be done with just a blender or two pitchers. To investigate, we acquired several recent-vintage bottles of Cabernet and Sangiovese (both known for their punchy, highly tannic flavors) and held a blind taste test of samples poured straight from the bottle and samples poured from one pitcher to another 15 times or whizzed on high speed for 30 seconds (this seemingly harsh method is employed in some restaurants). The results were remarkable: The undecanted wines were predictably astringent and flat; the wines that had been decanted by pouring were bright and balanced, their tannins less prominent, with more complex aromas coming to the fore. The blender-decanted wines tasted more developed than the undecanted ones but not nearly as developed as the wines that were repeatedly poured. We’ll be turning to this method the next time we need to let wine breathe in a hurry.