Many people purchase wine, some from vineyards; most from the supermarket – but even more people lose out on the fully developed flavours that a wine has to offer. Even your cheaper supermarket wine can benefit from aeration, which is the process of allowing the wine to hit the air, enabling it to slowly oxidise, making the flavours really come to life. It doesn’t matter where you buy your wine, it was made in a vineyard somewhere and they set out to make this wine with a specific taste, make sure you fulfill that by aerating your wine to unlock its potential.
Aeration is a simple process that requires close care and attention, but most importantly, patience and experimentation.
First, select your wine. For this tutorial we are going to bypass the decanting process and assume your wine either has no sediment, or has been cleared of it.
If you have a red wine – your aeration process just became a whole lot complicated. The age of your wine massively effects how long you should aerate your wine for and we implore you take further research, however if you periodically taste your wine throughout the process you will keep yourself safe from creating vinegar. The older it is, the less time it should be exposed as its formulation is a lot more delicate. Any wine under 15 years can also benefit from an aeration time of between 30-60 minutes. The air mixes with the ingredients and smooths any harsh tannic tastes we often find with young bitter red wines. Understand that aeration is not a hard rule process and there are a lot of different methods and advice going around from experienced and practiced sommeliers on the internet that will conflict – it is about finding the process that best fits for you.
If you have a white wine
If you have a sparkling wine – many people like to keep their sparkling wine sparkly, aeration will take the life out of your bubbles so this may not be the process for you, especially if you are at a formal event. However when sparkling wine is aerated even only for 15-30 minutes, it allows us to see past the harsh blow of the fizz and experience the hidden flavours within.
If you have a rose – this wine is so delicate that it is usually of no benefit to aerate, however you can pour the bottle into another bottle or vase, and then back again, known as double decanting, in order to get the wine nicely swilled with the air and serve straight away, allowing any further aeration to occur in the glass.
You now have your wine, now for the method to our madness:
Pour your wine into a decanter or carafe. This vessel should have a wide bottom so that the wine takes up a large surface area, allowing more of the liquid to come in contact with oxygen, make sure to pour yourself a small tasting glass immediately. You taste the wine as it is so that you can assess the length of time it will need to stand, and hopefully allow you to taste the improved flavours as time goes by. Periodically pour yourself another (small) tasting glass, and when you feel the wine tastes its best, serve. This could take 30 minutes, or it could take a few hours, but the cheaper and younger of your wines are much more accommodating and improve quickly within a short amount of time.
If you leave your wine to aerate too long and oxidise entirely, you can never bring it back and your wine will have turned to vinegar.