ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

What is the science behind the aeration of wine? What does air do to a wine? Why is it if a wine is closed and then you put air though it (via a funnel of some type) that it can release the aromas and flavors of the wine?

—Heidi Y., Grande Prairie, Alberta

Dear Heidi,

Exposing wine to air does two things: it triggers oxidation and evaporation. Oxidation is what makes an apple turn brown after its skin is broken, and evaporation is the process of liquid turning into vapor. Wine is made up of hundreds of compounds, and with aeration, usually the volatile undesirable compounds will evaporate faster than the desirable, aromatic and flavorful ones.

There are a few particular compounds that are reduced with aeration, such as sulfites, which are added to wine to prevent oxidation and microbial activity but can smell like burnt matchsticks, and sulfides, which are naturally occurring but can remind you of rotten eggs or onionskins. Ethanol is also a highly volatile compound, and a wine that smells too much like rubbing alcohol when you first open it might lose the ethanol note and become more expressive with some aeration.

You mention funnels as a way to aerate wine, but just opening a bottle and pouring a glass will also provide aeration, as will swirling your glass of wine. For more extreme aeration, decanting a wine works well too. After a while, aerated wines begin to oxidize, and the flavors and aromas will flatten out. The more dense and concentrated a wine is, the more it will benefit from aeration and the longer it can go before beginning to fade. On the other hand, you probably don’t want to aerate delicate older wines for long, as you can miss out on their unique aromas, but they’re often decanted to remove sediment.

—Dr. Vinny


Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

MEMBER LOGIN

= members only

Keep me logged in      Forgot Password?

Free Email Newsletters

Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions

» View samples
» Or sign up now!
» Manage my newsletter preferences

Classifieds

The marketplace for all your wine needs, including:

Wine Storage | Wine Clubs
Dining & Travel | Wine Auctions
Wine Shops | Wine Accessories