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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

REVIEW: Vinturi Wine Aerator

posted by snekse
Wine and fluid dynamics are two topics not often discussed together, but this holiday season, you may have a reason to.*

When I first heard about the Vinturi essential wine aerator, I was highly intrigued. I had just read an article about the Bernoulli principle and how it's used when designing race cars. When used properly, it will actually suck a car down to the road by taking advantage of the differentiating wind speed above and below the car. How cool is that? Then I read about a wine aerator that uses the same principles, so of course I had to investigate.

So here's how this thing works. You have what basically amounts to a funnel. At a specific point along the narrowest route of the tunnel, there are two narrow holes that intersect the funnel path at a perpendicular angle. When you pour wine in the top of the funnel, it creates a bit of a vortex as it spirals down the funnel's path. As it passes by the two small holes, it draws air in and theoretically, aerates your wine. The aeration, in turn, is supposed to enrich the bouquet, smooth the tannins and enhance the flavors. The idea just sounded too cool. I had to check this thing out.

I contacted the company and asked for a press sample to review. I'll admit I was skeptical on how much snake oil was in this, but it appealed to the geek in me. As did the prospect of being able to open a bottle of wine, pouring it through a gadget and getting the same effects of decanting the bottle for an hour. I drink a lot of big reds that benefit from decanting and decanting is about the only way I can get my wife to drink more than one glass of Cabernet. Could this little funnel really be the oenophile's perfect toy?

The answer...maybe. Disappointing I know. I've seriously put this thing through it's paces holding multiple blind testings. The results are interesting, but I have to say a bit inconclusive. I can tell you without a doubt that it may alter your perception of a particular wine. ;-) What I can't tell you is if it will alter your perception of every wine and if you will consistently enjoy or consistently be disappointed with that altered perception.

Perception is the key word here. Who knows if on a chemical or molecular basis that the wine changed at all. Maybe the aeration dissipates some of the alcohol vapor or something like that, but I have a hard time believing it does much more than that. At most, I would think it might do something similar to an emulsion and suspends more oxygen molecules in the wine. I'm not a science nerd, so I really can't speak much to this. What I do know is that almost every person who did a blind comparison noted a difference between a glass poured through the Vinturi wine aerator and one that wasn't. What made this finding even more shocking was the fact that those same testers were also able to spot my control test and noted no differences when both glasses were poured directly from the bottle!?

So the question you might be asking yourself at this point is, "Yeah, but which did they prefer?" The answer is -- it depends. Obviously taste is subjective and not everyone is going to like the same things. To make the matter more complicated, there often wasn't a consensus on which glass was preferred. The only consensus was that they were different. At times, some people thought they were so different that they claimed I was trying to trick them by giving them two different wines. There was, however, one trend that appeared. Mid-priced reds. About the $30-$50 range. By a large majority, most tasters preferred the wine aerated with the Vinturi wine aerator over a wine poured straight out of the bottle or a wine poured in one glass then poured in another (to agitate it a little). I won't try to speculate why this is, but I will throw in one caveat. The tasters also preferred a glass shaken vigorously in an empty bottle over a non-shaken glass. Chew on that for a while.

So what's the verdict on this speed decanter? As a wine accessory, I can't say it's a necessity or that you'll like every wine more after you use it. But it looks great, is very unique, is fun to play with, is a great conversation piece and with a price tag under $40, I think it's a great gift for a wine lover who already has all of the essentials.

Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator

Rating: 87

If you live in Omaha, the only retailer I know of that sells these is The Omaha Wine Co. If you know of another, please let me know. Otherwise, you can always order one through Amazon which tends to have the best prices anyway. If you have lots of wine buddies, you can also order a 2-pack or 4-pack to save some dough. ***UPDATE*** Vinturi also released a nifty new tower that holds the device while you pour. Nice! They're also making a White Wine Aerator that's supposed to be different from the original, but I'm not sure I really buy into that. If you're really into wine though, you can buy a Vinturi Red and White Wine combo set. No ultimate deluxe premium combo set available yet that contains a tower, both aerators and the aerator cleaning brush.

"I'm a skeptic about wine gadgets...So I surprised myself with my enthusiastic response to the Vinturi... I tried it on a tannic red wine and it instantly tasted better."
-- W. Blake Gray @ The San Francisco Chronicle

"I was immediately attracted by both the simplicity of the design and the spectacular results. Vinturi delivers on its promise of effective, quick aeration"
-- Charlie Palmer @ the Charlie Palmer Restaurant Group

WBW 19: When in Rhone
WBW 20: Anything But Chardonnay...
WBW 27: Icy Desserts (Ice Wine)
WBW 28: Festive Sparkling Wines
WBW 30: New World Syrah
WBW 31: Box Wines
WBW 34: Washington Cabernets
WBW 45: Old World Rieslings

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