Unless you’re a pro at wine tasting or you’re intimately familiar with the tannins in wine, tasting the notes in wines and identifying the sensory characteristics is challenging for casual drinkers.
Wine professionals say aeration can help with this and bring the flavors of the wine to life. Aerators are the tools that can help you do this and make you enjoy that wine bottle the more.
We will do a deep dive into wine aerators and tell you all you need to know about them and answer if they work as described.
This guide contains details about what they are, how they function, benefits and gives you options if you’re thinking of purchasing. We also included an FAQ section to answer all your burning questions.
What is a Wine Aerator?
A wine aerator is a device that exposes your wine to air than would be otherwise possible with the normal process. It exposes your wine to more air than the normal process of opening a bottle, pouring it usually, and letting it breathe.
Wine is a combination of different chemical compounds. When you uncork the wine and pour it into glassware, the compounds undergo two chemical processes – evaporation and oxidation.
The two processes contribute towards reducing the unwanted flavors in the wine bottle. You would have heard people say they’re allowing their wine to breathe, or some others use decanters.
This breathing for the wine could take hours sometimes, hence the need for faster equipment like a wine aerator.
How Does a Wine Aerator Work?
A carafe is used traditionally to allow wine air out. Using this allows the surface area in direct contact with the air to be bigger than the bottle, which lets the wine oxygenate and releases its aroma to blossom.
Sometimes this process will require several hours before you can drink the wine.
This is where an aerator differs from a carafe as it speeds up the process considerably. There is no need to wait for the wine, and as soon as you use it, you can start drinking your wine.
Generally, there is no universal use for aerators, but you use most of them to pour wine into a wine glass before drinking.
Using an aerator allows it, so you only aerate the wine you want to drink, and there is no need to aerate the whole bottle. You can preserve the rest of the wine till you’re ready to drink and use your aerator again.
What Does a Wine Aerator Do?
Wine aerator serves as an agent that pushes wine to interact with the surrounding air to hasten oxidation and evaporation. The wine aerator forces this interaction by passing the wine through a funnel of pressurized oxygen.
Exposing the wine to high oxygen levels would make the compounds within the wine that can undergo oxidation go through a chemical reaction.
This chemical reaction is similar to when the fruit ripens. One of the essential compounds in the wine susceptible to oxidation is the alcohol in the wine – ethanol.
During the oxidation process, some of the ethanol gets converted to acetic acid and acetaldehyde. These compounds reduce the robust, vegetal, and medicinal characteristics in a wine’s bouquet.
In simple terms, oxidation works on the solid and medicinal tastes you would otherwise notice in a wine’s bouquet.
Evaporation, on the other hand, works on the unstable compounds in the wine. Sulfites and ethanol are directly affected by evaporation as they’re the first to evaporate during the process.
Ethanol is present in the wine because it represents the alcohol content while sulfites are in the wine to regulate the microbes and reduce overoxidation during the winemaking process.
Even though both of these compounds are necessary for wine production, the extra molecules that are usually floating get evaporated.
Serves as a Catalyst
Oxidation and evaporation do not change the wine’s character but instead grooms the wine to attain its best possible taste.
It takes the properties and compounds already present in the wine, organizes it, and makes it as pleasant to taste as possible.
Speeding evaporation makes sulfites and ethanol move to the skies and decrease the medicinal and sulfuric properties of a wine’s aroma and flavor.
Types of Wine Aerators
The method you use in aerating your wine depends on the type of wine aerator you purchase. There are primarily two types of wine aerators.
Handheld Wine Aerators
This is usually a tiny vessel you either hold or place on a wine glass for aeration. You would use this by pouring the wine into the vessel as it passes through an aerating chamber and into your wine glass.
Take care to pour wine gently into the aerator, and don’t pour too much at once, so your wine aerates properly. This is because wine flows out of the aerator slower than an average person would pour, so leave a little time and always pour gently.
Wine Pourer Aerators or Bottle Stoppers
This is a wine aerator that you will typically fit an open wine bottle just like a speed pourer on a liquor bottle. When you fit this stopper on an open wine bottle and pour the wine, it passes through the aerator and straight to the glass.
Using this type of wine aerator is as easy as placing the stopper on a bottle and pour the wine.
Benefits of Wine Aerator
Improves a Wine’s Bouquet
The main reason a wine’s smell might be too much or intense is the presence of volatile sulfites and ethanol. Sulfites have smelled like old eggs and lit matches, while ethanol has a stinging medical scent.
Aerating the wine will affect these smells and reduce its effectiveness. The resulting wine after aeration is a bouquet that isn’t restricted by rogue or free-floating compounds.
Improves a Wine’s Flavor Profile
Many wine researchers have proven that more than 80% of the taste is the smell. This is why the smell of your wine is essential to the overall tasting experience. Just as aeration improves a wine’s bouquet, so also does the flavor profile improve from trimming out the ethanol and sulfites.
Saves You Money
Aerating a $10 wine bottle can make its characteristics improve so much that it becomes similar to an unaerated $20 bottle. Same thing for an aerated $20 bottle as it can show the same taste complexity of a $30 or $40 bottle after aerating it.
It might not seem like a big difference, but compare the markup of these bottles at restaurants. You could pay $30 for a bottle of wine that tastes like $60 instead.
An aerator gives you quality wines at a lower price, and you can direct the money somewhere else. Also, the other device that can aerate wines is a decanter which is considerably more expensive than a wine aerator. So, you get the same effect on wines at a lower price.
5 Best Wine Aerators
Best Overall: Vinturi Wine Aerator
This is one of the simplest wine aerators to use. It acts like a funnel that you place in between your glass cup and wine bottle when pouring out.
An acrylic aerator improves the wine’s oxygen exposure and improves the bouquet without a filter, battery, or charcoal.
It also has a display and is very dishwasher safe.
Best Design: Menu Winebreather Carafe
Menu wine breather carafe is a two-piece aerator with a modern appearance. The breather connects the wine bottle and carafe and plugs into the neck of the carafe.
You use it by removing the breather’s cap and putting it in the carafe’s opening. Carry the whole unit upside down and set it atop the bottleneck.
You then hold the bottle gently in one hand with the carafe in another before flipping upside down again.
Best Budget: Corkas Wine Aerator
This is an in-bottle aerator that you insert into the opening of wine bottles. It is like a one-size-fits-all rubber stopper for properly aerating the wine.
The pour spout is made of FDA-quality acrylic that you can easily clean with warm water.
Best Electric: Aervana Electric Wine Aerator
This is one of the few aerators that separate wines from their sediment. It is a pressurized electric aerator that behaves like a tap. You touch the mechanism in one tap, and it gives you your wine drip-free in an upright position, so the sediment settles at the bottom.
It is made from USDA-approved materials, has a LED indicator light and a soft-touch band for easy handling. Note that it requires AAA batteries which aren’t included on purchase.
Best in Bottle: TRIbella Classic Drip-Free Wine Aerator
This is an in-bottle aerator that has three handcrafted aerators.
It also has three pour sprouts and three exit stainless steel pipes, which carry the wine into the bottle in three streams. Its design is also unique to reduce any case of dripping.
Aerators vs. Decanters
Even though it might seem like both pieces of equipment do the same thing, there are notable differences between both. Here are a couple of ways they are different:
- Aerators only take seconds to get your wine ready, while decanting could take hours. If you are time-pressed, we suggest aeration.
- Concentrated, dense and tannic wines would benefit from aeration because they would benefit from an extensive air exposure which a wine aerator can give.
- Decanting is a better option for older wines, especially those ten years or above. Older wines are usually more delicate, and aerating could be too aggressive and rob its flavor. Decanting is also great for removing sediments from aged wines.
- Aerators are better for young wine bottles, which could greatly benefit from aggressive aeration.
Wine Aerator FAQ
Which Wines do you Need to Aerate?
Red wines need aeration far more than whites. However, there are some categories of red wines that aeration won’t do much good for them.
Examples are lighter-bodied reds such as Pinot Noir and cheap red wines anywhere from $10 and below. It would help if you consume these wines from the bottles and aerating them won’t affect them.
Do All Wine Aerators Work the Same Way?
No, wine aerators typically have different designs depending on the manufacturer. Some wine aerators attach to the bottle’s mouth, while others act simply as funnels you pour the wine through. As long as the aerators expose the wine to oxygen effectively, it is an aerator.
Can Aerators Remove the Rotten Smell in Wines?
Yes, this is precisely what wine aerators are for. The compound responsible for the rotten egg and matchstick smell is the sulfites in the wine. Aeration helps evaporate the compound and reduce the effects of the smell on your taste pallet.
So, if you open up a bottle of wine and you smell rotten eggs, it is a sign you need to aerate it before consumption to enjoy it fully.
Doesn’t Uncorking a Bottle Give Adequate Aeration?
No. Even though it may seem like it, just uncorking your bottle doesn’t give enough aeration to remove the undesirable smells and flavors.
Even if you let the wine bottle sit for hours uncorked, it will not do much because of the tiny opening of wine bottles. You need to pour the wine out into wine aerators for accurate results.
Can You Aerate White Wine?
Yes, you can aerate white wines. However, only a tiny percentage of them would benefit from aeration.
If you want to aerate whites, it should be the heavier, full-bodied whites from Burgundy, Bordeaux, selected chardonnays, and Alsace. The white wines that are more on the heavier side are the ones you should aerate.
The more complex it is, the more aeration will be of benefit to the wine. Many white wines are young wines; that is why a lot of them do not need aeration. The tannins or age that need tempering aren’t present in many young whites.
What are the Other Methods of Aerating Wine Apart From a Wine Aerator?
There are two other methods of aerating your wines.
Swirling the Glass: Swirling the wine in the glass a couple of times will increase the wine’s surface area and encourage the two aeration processes – evaporation and oxidation.
Using a Decanter: A decanter is a glass vessel designed to increase the surface area of your wine to activate the oxidation and evaporation process.
Using a wine aerator is still the fastest, most efficient, and overall best method of aerating your wines out of all the methods.
It hastens the process up because it uses pressurized oxygen, so you don’t have to wait hours before drinking your wine.
Wine aerators allow us to use oxidation to our benefit and create upgraded and more pleasing wines for our consumption.
If you’re a wine connoisseur, it is worth it having at least one aerator to improve your drinking experience and could open your eyes to some wine bottles you have neglected.