THE GOCHISO GOURMET: Let that wine breathe

THE FOUNTAINS OF AGING  photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

THE FOUNTAINS OF AGING photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

So you finally received that new shipment of Cabernet Sauvignon from your favorite winery (2010). You’ve been waiting six months for the shipment to arrive, and now that it’s in your hands, you want to sample it, although you should put it in the cellar to let it age. But since we can never tell what the future holds, instant gratification triumphs. Since it’s a very young wine, however, you need to decant it, pour it into a carafe and let it breathe over several hours, right? Hmm, several hours isn’t really instant gratification. You could sample it right from the bottle, but it may be a little “closed,” in which case that $50 price tag seems like a waste.

But you don’t want to wait several hours. What do you do?

What about accelerated aeration? A device quickly aerates the wine, thus opening up flavors that would have remained hidden or at least muted if the wine was sampled straight from the bottle. There are quite a few of these on the market, and all claim that they make your glass of wine taste better by speeding up the oxygenation process. And they’ll only set you back about the cost of a nice bottle of Cabernet.

The Players
In lieu of having you spend your hard earned dollars sampling these devices, the Gochiso Gourmet will give you an objective review of some of these devices. Basically, all of these devices aerate your wine to about the same degree as decanting the wine and letting it sit over the course of an evening, but it’s done immediately without waiting. Why aerate at all? Oxygenating a young wine helps expose underlying flavor components that either are hidden or masked by a dominant component, like fruit, especially in a young California Cabernet. When the wine is aerated, secondary aromas start to appear, like herbal components or secondary fruit flavors, and the increased oxygenation can also soften some of the hard tannins in young red wines, improving the balance and mouth feel of the wine.

So I assembled a group of wine “toys” that I have in my collection. To be as objective as possible, I used the same shaped wine glass, Riedel Zinfandel, since only about two ounces were poured, and poured the same amount of wine with each device. I swirled the wine three times before sniffing and sipping and compared it to the same wine poured straight from the bottle without the benefit of any aeration device. The wine in question was the recent release of 2010 Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon ($58) — as young as any Cabernet on the market right now. True objectivity would have necessitated a blind tasting, but that would have required a second person … and the Mrs. was busy in the kitchen. True professionalism also would have dictated that I spit the wine between samples so as not to have the alcohol cloud my evaluation. But I’m not really a professional and I definitely don’t spit $58 wine.

Vinturi $39.95
This is probably the most recognized name of all the wine aeration products on the market today. It’s basically a small acrylic cup that directly drains through a narrow tube. Opposing perpendicular openings connected to the drain tube suck air into the drain tube, creating an exiting vortex of wine that’s now fully aerated as it drops into your glass. They also make a travel version of the Vinturi, complete with a nifty travel case, but the cup opening is just a little wider than the bottle opening, so I’d advise maroon colored shirts and dark pants when attempting to use the travel version!

Host Tilt Variable Aerator $25
This acrylic pourer aerates wine to varying degrees, depending on the angle of the bottle. This aerator is placed into the uncorked bottle and aerates the wine as it’s poured, via a single opening that draws air into the stream of wine. A 30-degree bottle angle mildly aerates the wine, up to 60 degrees moderately aerates the wine and past 60 degrees fully aerates the wine.

Soiree $24.99
This is the simplest design, as it’s just a glass ball that is inserted into the opened wine bottle. Three conical protrusions in the ball agitate, thus aerate, the wine that enters the ball.

Trudeau $24.99
This is another acrylic pourer that is inserted into the uncorked wine bottle, but it has two aerating openings and an angled pouring neck so that only a 15-degree angle is needed to aerate the wine.

Eisch Wine Glass $37.99
I also included a wine glass that supposedly “softens” the wine due to “some” chemical reaction with the crystalline structure of the glass. Supposedly, two to four minutes spent in the glass has the same effect as two to four hours in a decanter.

The Verdict

Straight from the bottle
There were loads of currant, with a touch of vanilla on the nose. An immediate hit of coarse tannins on the palate then dark fruit finishing a little hot (alcohol).

Host Tilt Variable Aerator
There was a mixture of currant and red fruit on the nose. Red fruit hits the palate first, with a noticeable reduction in the alcohol and softer tannins. It softened the tannins and alcohol the most while letting fruit come to the forefront.

Soiree
I probably didn’t use it to its full potential as it seems the wine bottle needs to be totally inverted for maximum aeration to occur. I deferred, however, since it had the loosest connection in the bottle and I didn’t want Cabernet covering my kitchen floor. There wasn’t much change compared to no aeration at all, with just a hint of alcohol softening.

Trudeau
It improved the nose the most, placing red and black cherry before currants and still allowed the vanilla notes to remain. It improved the palate by reducing the alcohol and softening the tannins, though just a touch behind the Host Tilt Variable Aerator.

Vinturi
This one was similar to the Trudeau, but just a point or two behind. It creates the most “sucking” noise, drawing air into the stream of wine, but it does require two hands (or the optional base for double the price) since this device isn’t inserted into the neck of the bottle.

Eisch
It actually muted the nose to the point where I really had to strain just to get the currant and fruit notes on the nose. It softened the palate, but also seemed to reduce the fruit flavors, too.

Overall, I’d say the best device was the Trudeau with the Vinturi coming in a close second and the Host Tilt a close third. Then again, you could simply decant your bottle via the Chuck Furuya “glug-glug” method by emptying the contents of one bottle of wine in one decanter and continually transfer the contents to a second decanter. Or you could simply have your wine with food in which case the tannins play a vital role cleansing your palate between bites. Or you could just start a collection of wines, only uncorking those that have “rested” another five to 10 years after receipt…

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the Univ. of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a clinical pharmacist during the day and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster at night. He writes from Kane‘ohe, HI and can be reached at gochisogourmet@yahoo.com.

Speak Your Mind

*

Kyplex Cloud Security Seal - Click for Verification