There are a lot of questions surrounding decanting and aerating wine. What does it do? What is the difference between the two? Which one is better? When should you use these techniques? Well look no further and let me give you the low down.
When wine makes contact with oxygen it is able to “breath” and this opens up the flavours already present and smooths the harsh tannins to allow for a better drinking experience. Aerating also triggers the release of aromas (another reason why you always see wine critics swirling the wine around the glass). However, simply popping the cork and letting the wine sit isn’t good enough. This is because, within the bottle, the surface area of wine making contact with the air is quite small and doesn’t allow for proper breathing. Aerating the wine, with either an aerator or a decanter helps this process along and bring out the flavour of the wine.
So what exactly is an aerator? An aerator is a handy instrument that you place over the bottle opening before you pour your wine. As you pour it, the liquid filters through and it expands the surface area of the wine and allows the air to mingle with it as it passes through the bubbler and out into the glass.
And decanting? What is that? A decanter is a type of jog, usually glass or crystal that opens up to a wide surface area on the bottom. This added surface area exposes the wine to oxygen to open it up and prove the aromas ready for drinking. Another benefit of decanting is that the process can be used to remove sediment that’s been collected over time as the wine ages. With older vintages, there can be a lot of sour tasting sediment that also give it an unpleasant crunchy texture.
So what’s the difference? Using an aerator is great when you are pressed for time as it quickly improves the drinking experience of young and bold wines. However, there is also the risk of bruising the wine and an aerator should never be used for wines that more than 10 years old. Decanting is a more gentle way to do the same process and has the added benefit of removing the sediment (and the decanter adds a fancy flair to any dinner party or soirée!). Decanting also allows you to taste the wine and decide when it is ready for drinking. For younger wines you may want to leave them in the decanter for 30 minutes to an hour before serving but with older wines it may be a better idea to serve immediately as they can quickly become completely oxidised and lose their flavours.
After reading this whole article you may still be thinking, which technique is better? The answer is both! It all depends on how pressed you are for time and the age of the wine you are serving. We recommend having both an aerator and a decanter on hand so that you’re prepared for any drinking situation.