In the nineteenth century the wealthy had their wine decanted by a servant, usually the butler, in order to remove sediment from the wine and allow the wine to “breathe”. As the middle class rose and began drinking fine wine and servants became less affordable and available to even the wealth this task began to fall upon the host or hostess.
Today decanting for the purpose of removing sediment is seldom necessary but many wine lovers still prefer their wine to have a chance to mix with air before being served; to this end the wine aerator has found a place of prominence among wine lovers.
A wine aerator does in a few minutes what use to take an hour or more of decanting; the aerator mixes air with the wine enhancing its taste. The way this is accomplished is so elegant in its simplicity that one wonders why it took as long as it did to be invented.
Wine enters the aerator (placed above a decanter or a wine glass) and air flows up into the wine to replace wine that is leaving the bottom of the aerator. If this sounds confusing, remember when you were a child and held the ketchup or steak sauce bottle upside down and smacking the bottom of the bottle in vain until a parent explained why nothing was coming out.
In order for the ketchup or sauce to leave the bottle air needed to go into the bottle to replace what was coming out and so the bottle had to be held at an angle. The wine coming straight down the narrow exit at the bottom of the aerator creates enough of a vacuum to suck air up into the wine waiting its turn to exit thus mixing wine and air.
Red wine benefits the most from aerating but some white wines can be enhanced as well particularly if they aren’t old enough to have fully matured. The more tannins in a wine the more its flavor will be improved by aeration. There are both red and white wine aerators available and while their expense may seem unnecessary, when you factor in being able to make a $20 bottle of wine taste as good as a $40 dollar tasted prior aerating, it’s worth it.
If you feel a wine aerator isn’t worth the price you could consult a seer to find out how much wine you will need to decant for your party or advise your guest to swirl their wine glasses before drinking and chance the occasionally sloshing of wine onto your furniture and carpet.