Give it air!
I’ve always been a big fan of decanting red wine. Young, astringent reds, particularly those sealed with a screwcap, can become softer and more aromatic after a little exposure to air. Older reds also seem to benefit. They can lose a little mustiness while gaining extra aroma intensity and complexity.
There is not much downside to decanting although very old wine can suffer from excessive air exposure. I recall tasting a 1929 Chateau Lafite, which was musty and closed initially before opening like a delicate flower. After 20 minutes it tasted like stale coffee grounds.
I still dust off the decanters at dinner parties but am increasingly using aerating devices on a day-to-day basis. I am frequently invited to test-drive different models of aerators and I must say that they all seem to make a difference to a greater or lesser degree.
My current favourite is Nuance Wine Finer which I see is available on Trade Me for NZD $37.30. It’s a tapered device that fits into the bottle neck. It contains a filter that effectively traps coarse sediment and cork chips. The device can be left in the bottle and has a sealable lid. Easy to use and easy to clean.
The big advantage of an aerator over a decanter is that it only aerates the wine you drink. Leftover wine can be popped into the fridge (red wine lasts longer when refrigerated) and enjoyed later.
It’s a simple matter to test the efficiency of an aerator by pouring two glasses – one that has been exposed to air and another that hasn’t. The difference isn’t always obvious but enough wines seem to respond positively to justify using the device.
Not everyone agrees. I invited a group of students to taste the difference between an aerated red wine and a recently poured control. A minority preferred the fresher, punchier character of the freshly-poured sample over the more mellow aerated sample.
I no longer extoll the virtues of aerating wine, suggesting instead that everyone puts it to the test and does whatever best suits their taste.
I continue to routinely aerate red wine.