by Sarah Meadows
The beauty of wine is partly found in its complexity–an ample grouping of chemicals and compounds reacting and complementing one another to impart a delicious and unique experience. Modern winemakers take great time and care to control these reactions thus achieving their desired flavors and aromatic results; this wine is bottled and made available for our enjoyment. However, it is our responsibility to respectfully draw out the very best in each vintage thereby truly fulfilling the intentions of the hardworking winemaker. To assist us in this endeavor is air. Air is a collaboration of more than ten different gases that affect the chemical composition of wine in numerous ways. Several of these gases, such as oxygen, are highly reactive and can work to remove impurities in finished wine.
Properly exposing wine to air can be accomplished through various methods. One such method is the use of a quality aerator. We recently had the pleasure of trying the deluxe Vinturi Red Wine Tower and the Vinturi White Wine Tower. These well-built aerators are designed to control the flow of wine through a precisely composed tapered chamber that uses pressure to force air through the colorful liquid. The aeration is fast and, for many vintages, negates the need for lengthy decanting. Our white wines are brighter and citrusy and our reds burst with fruitiness. The mathematical formula used to control the flow of air through these aerators proves true when you actually taste the improvement. We encourage you to treat yourself to a Vinturi aerator and taste test the difference.
Vinturi aerators are functional and surprisingly stylish. We love the futuristic look of the standing aerators. These standing units are virtually hands-free; you simply place the wine glass on the lower platform and pour your favorite wine into the aerator opening at the top. White wines also benefitfrom air exposure and Vinturi has designed an aerator especially for the delicate nature of white wines. Because the blend of flavors of white wines are more fragile and over aeration can have detrimental effects, Vinturi has created their white wine aerator with a differently sized chamber to apply less pressure. The right amount of oxygen is allowed to permeate the tampered interior while not over exposing the wine. We are pleased with the sturdy construction, ease of cleaning, and the superior aeration of Vinturi’s designs.
One of the main contentions when it comes to aeration is whether or not it actually works. And by “works”, we are referring to any noticeable difference in the nose and flavor of the aerated wine. The main reason for this contention seems to be the fact that taste is a relative thing. Not everyone perceives the same flavors, or chemicals, to the same degree. A wine that seems overwhelmingly tangy to one person could be immensely enjoyable to another. But, proper aeration is chemically beneficial to wine and can labor to highlight more desirable attributes of a particular vintage while subduing less desirable flavors. Science can provide us with a better understanding of what happens when wine is exposed to air and through increased knowledge of these reactions; we can also attain a greater appreciation for aeration.
Because the composition of air is complex, as is the structure of wine, the comprehensive chemical reactions cannot be explored in a single article. However, we can highlight the more applicable and relevant effects of aeration. One benefit of aeration is the reduction of sulfur dioxide. This compound is added during wine fermentation as a protection against unwanted oxidation and as an inhibition to the growth of bacteria. Aerating wine causes excess sulfur dioxide to evaporate by means of chemical covalent double-bonding to the gases that make up air. Another element that is reduced by aeration is sulfides, anions of sulfur atoms. These negatively charged atoms can react with oxygen to produce sulfur dioxide. They can also be the cause of egg or onion-related odors associated with sulfur. Both the reduction of sulfur dioxide and sulfides can allow the brighter flavors of the wine’s fruit to shine through.Other less desirable flavors and aromas such as bitter tannins, phenolic compounds, and heavy yeast influences are diminished by aeration. In some cases, such as with tannins, aeration does not literally remove the chemicals, but allows competing flavor and aroma to sneak to the forefront thus toning down the intensity of the former. As we mentioned earlier, we do not all perceive flavor and smell the same way, thus aeration can positively alter the perception of wine thus increasing its enjoyment to the drinker. Other contributing factors to how aeration will affect wine include pH and temperature; the colder the wine the more oxygen it will absorb.
From experience, we at The Wine’d Up strongly suggest that you invest in a Vinturi aerator, chill your favorite vintage, relax, and enjoy the perfectly aerated glass of wine that is sure to follow.