Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Does cheap wine taste better if it's aerated?
—Dawn, Shelby Township, Mich.
Just to make sure everyone is following along, “aerating” is just a fancy way of saying you’re exposing the wine to oxygen, or letting it “breathe”—a process that can be assisted by pouring, swirling or decanting. (Some folks like to use those gadgets known as "aerators," but I've never found them to be any more effective than letting a wine breathe the old-fashioned way.)
Exposing a wine to oxygen will allow some wines to “open up” and become more expressive. Volatile compounds may evaporate, leaving more pleasingly aromatics to be enjoyed. In general, dense and concentrated wines benefit the most from aeration, while older, more delicate wines will fade quickly.
While aerating a wine can turn up the volume on its flavors and aromas, that’s only a good thing if you actually like the wine. Aeration can’t magically change the quality of a wine. In fact, if a wine has a flaw like TCA or brett, the longer it breathes, the more these notes can become prominent. Several years ago there was a theory going around that "hyperdecanting" (putting wine into a blender) could transform a $2 bottle into something much more special. Decanting is not a magic trick. There’s a reason why most people don't pour their wine into an electric blender.
That said, I tend to reflexively swirl every wine—red, white, pink or bubbly—to help it evolve in the glass, no matter the price tag.