Who would have thought that a little bit of air could do a beverage so good?
It’s no secret that I love wine and, really, for the most basic reason of all: because it tastes good. I laugh at the thought of aging wines (I don’t have the patience), I turn my nose up at cork dorks and I balk at wine gadgets that “you just have to try!”
And then a little wine gadget changed everything…
During one of my recent trips to California I joined a few colleagues at the tasting counter of Ponte Winery. Someone pulled out a funny little device called a wine aerator and swore it made all the difference in the world in a glass of wine. It is supposed to do the job of decanting, without having to wait for the wine to breath. We selected the Beverino, a red wine meant to be drunk cool or at room temperature that is nicknamed “The white wine drinkers red” simply because it’s an all around easy wine to drink, even for white-wine-only drinkers.
We each received one glass of non-aerated Beverino. Then our server poured the wine through the aerator into a second glass for each of us. I took a sip of the first glass and it was good, probably our best table wine, good any time, with or without food. I then tried the aerated wine and, lo and behold, it tasted…expensive. The aroma was full, engulfing my whole face, the flavor was richer, yet soft with silky tannins.
This incident got me thinking about decanting, something I never tried myself and assumed was just another unnecessary action taken by people who spend too much time thinking about wine than they did enjoying it. But now I had doubts about my own thinking.
Upon returning home I purchased a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino, my favorite wine in the world and one that I treat myself to maybe once or twice a year. One night I opened it while I was cooking dinner and poured myself just a sip, for I wanted to let it sit for an hour to see if it made any difference at all ( I didn’t have an actual decanter at the time). Let me tell you, it’s not easy seeing an open bottle of Brunello in your peripheral view and not drink it down, hobo style, right from the bottle. But, I succeeded and, yes, the wine was magnificent after that hour had passed. The tannins had mellowed and that smell, that wonderful smell seemed to fill the room.
Soon after I purchased an actual decanter, a device I now consider completely necessary! I try not to think of why it makes such a differnce in the aroma and taste of a wine–I’ll leave that to the experts. I just know it makes one helluva difference.
It’s true, decanting can by time consuming and, unless you think of it ahead of time, you don’t open your bottle of dinner wine until dinner is ready. I still highly recommend giving your wine time to breathe before drinking it. Whether you just let it sit open for a while, pour it in a decanter, or use that ingenious mini aerator, air will improve even the most mediocre bottle you have stashed away and will only open when there is absolutely nothing else to drink with dinner.