When my husband came home the other day and told me he’d just bought me a ‘rabbit’, I had to think about my response. If you ever watched early episodes of ‘Sex and the City’ you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t then, yes, I was concerned about the small, furry animal with the twitchy nose. In this case, he meant the Rabbit aerator.
When you aerate wine, you expose the wine to oxygen. Like decanting, there are clear reasons why:
- When wine has been closed in a bottle over time, they need a little boost to open up the bouquet or flavors ~ exposing wine to oxygen will help the wine to ‘open’ more quickly.
- If the wine is heavily tannic, it may be quite strong and unpleasant for the first tastes. The amount of time the wine is exposed to oxygen softens this quality Aeration helps to soften the wine more quickly so you can enjoy the wine at first sip.
- Wines constantly change after bottling, which is why they are aged but the resulting chemical reactions can produce a gas that may be unpleasant. Different varieties can produce this gassy by-product, noticeable upon first opening ~ yet doesn’t mean the wine has turned. Aeration can help to separate the developed wine from the off-putting gas. I think the rule here is: Classy, not gassy.
- Aeration can substantially bring out the complexity and expression of a wine that just pouring in a glass (guilty) never can. And it can do it more quickly than letting sit in a decanter or in your glass.
As a caveat: if the wine you’ve poured has, in fact, turned ~ aerating won’t help. We tried that with a recent bottle and it just made it worse.
A Matter of Style
Like decanters, the choice is yours. You can find a multitude of aerator styles, all that work on the same principle: fully oxygenating the wine. When I go to wineries, most are using them and are loyal to the ones they use ~ and sell~ in the tasting room.
Glass vs. Plastic ~
The choice should be obvious, glass makes sense. Would you prefer wine served in a glass or plastic goblet? There are many expensive aerators fashioned in hand-blown glass and they are beautiful. Being the wine noob that I am, I have plastic.
Keep them separated ~
Do you really need a separate aerator for white and red wine? Many experts agree that decanting should be used for all wines; oxygenation can clearly benefit all. So, too, does aeration. But I wondered if having two different aerators was more marketing tool than necessity. In thinking it through, it would make sense; over time and use, you’d have residue from the red wine that might transfer flavours to any whites that are poured through. That wouldn’t be as much of an issue with glass, as it would rinse more completely. But if you have plastic, better get two.
We decided to take advantage of the wine we had on hand for Thanksgiving and put the aerators to the test. This wasn’t very scientific, we didn’t do a double blind tasting but we did have the two main variables, some nice wine to try. Carefully rinsing between tastings, we each had two glasses, one to try the unaerated and one poured through the Rabbit, then the Trudeau.
|Vineland ~ Pinot Meunier||3||0|
|Strewn ~ Cab Merlot||2||1|
|Inniskillin ~ Cab Shiraz||3||0|
|Lailey ~ Vidal||3||0|
I admit, I was somewhat skeptical about how the aerators could actually affect the taste of the wine. When we tried the Vidal through the Rabbit, it immediately opened up, making the wine more complex and flavourful. After testing three other wines, it was almost unanimous (except for Strewn) that the Rabbit was the better aerator. Clearly, design made all the difference: The Rabbit was almost shower head like; allowing rivulets to flow down and slide off the curve of the bowl to cascade more specifically in the glass. While the Trudeau brought good amount of air into the pour, it streamed in a way that was similar to just a straight pour from the bottle.
I didn’t know what to expect from my aerator experiment. To taste a distinct difference in one sip after aeration was really surprising and cool. And I enjoy being surprised out of my skepticism, even if this Rabbit was very different from what I expected.