The Breville So2mmelier (RRP NZD $899.95 or NZD $799 from Harvey Norman) claims to do in a minute what decanting achieves in an hour. That’s a tempting hook if you, like me, are too impulsive and disorganised to decant wine an hour or two before it hits the glass.
“The Breville So2mmelier filters the ambient air to remove any impurities (moisture, dust, odours) and isolates oxygen from nitrogen and CO2. It aerates wine with a constant flow of purified and highly concentrated oxygen. This means that any wine will be served with a constant quality no matter when or where it is decanted.”
Sounds interesting, so I ticked the box for a test drive and a machine duly arrived at my door. It seemed pretty straightforward but I read the fine print anyway.
“Appliances can be used by persons with reduced physical, sensory or mental capabilities or lack of experience and knowledge.”
Great, so I can handle it then.
The machine was easy to set up and use. Simply pour wine into the carafe so that the level is somewhere between maximum and minimum. Set the length of oxygenation time and press the start button. They even provide a chart to help you choose a suitable length of time but you can set it in decanting hours which convert it to Breville So2mmelier oxygenation minutes.
I chose a youthful 2015 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River. Australian cabernet sauvignon under five years should be oxygenated for 1.5 mins according to the guide. I also chose a cabernet-dominant Bordeaux blend from Waiheke, 1999 Te Whau The Point, to see how the machine handled a more mature red. The guides suggested 15 seconds for the Australian equivalent (New Zealand didn’t feature on the chart).
Note to the Breville people: It might be worth factoring closure differences into the “Oxygenation Time Recommendation”. In my experience, wines under screwcap need more time than the equivalent wine under cork. Perhaps you could state “times shown are for corks, add an extra 50% for screwcaps”.
Second note for the Breville people. It’s a small point but So2mmelier spelt with a lower-case 2 is a clever idea, although it looks a bit like SO2 rather than O2 to me. The preservative SO2 is cast as a bit of a baddie. It doesn’t bother me but some might find it off-putting.
I started with the Moss Wood. The machine whirred away for 1.5 minutes giving a quiet fart every 5-6 seconds. I poured a glass of oxygenated wine, a glass straight from the bottle and a third glass that had been aerated using a device called “Nuance Wine Finer Aerator” (around NZD $50) that fits in the neck of a bottle and aerates the wine as it flows into the glass. It’s what I normally use to aerate wine.
The Breville So2mmelier certainly softened the moderately astringent wine significantly. While my Nuance Fine Wine Aerator also softened the wine, the Breville So2mmelier had a greater effect.
Next, I tried the same procedure using a bottle of 1999 Te Whau The Point. Once again the Nuance Wine Finer Aerator measurably softened the wine but the Breville So2mmelier sample was even softer. However, the older wine was already agreeably soft and I thought lost a little flavour intensity when aerated and oxygenated.
The Breville So2mmelier is an expensive machine that, like the Coravin wine preserver, might have an application in a restaurant situation but could struggle to sell at the consumer level. It certainly works, but it is a high price to pay for not being organised enough to slosh the wine into a decanter an hour or so before you feel like a drink.