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Does White Wine Benefit from Aeration?

By Cook's Illustrated Published November 2012

It’s common to aerate red wine before serving, but is there any point in aerating white wine?

Typically, wine is aerated by letting it rest in a wide, shallow vessel for anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. Though this is most commonly done with young red wines, some connoisseurs advocate it for young whites as well. To see for ourselves if aerating white wines is beneficial, we tested the technique on 11 bottles representing a range of ages, varietals, qualities, and styles. We used the “flash” aerating technique that we recommended for reds in our January/February 2012 issue, when we found that pouring wine back and forth 15 times softened tannins, brought out complex aromas, and balanced flavors.

We quickly learned that 15 pours was far too many for delicate whites, making them taste watery, so for subsequent tastings, we poured each wine between pitchers only five times before comparing them with unaerated samples. Most tasters found the aerated samples “less fruity” and “less acidic,” not to mention “dull,” “flat,” and “characterless.”

Our conclusion? Without the harsh tannins that make some young reds hard to drink, white wines don’t benefit from aeration, and “white-wine aerators” are nothing more than a gimmick.