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,
What’s your opinion about using aerators on bottles that are 20 years or older?
—Ray, Westminster, Colo.
Aerators are tools that help expose a wine to air—they usually either attach to a wine bottle, or wine is poured through them and into a wineglass, often making the wine bubble or gurgle so you can tell they are doing their job.
I’ve done some experimenting with these tools, but I don’t use any of them. Swirling my wineglass is enough aerating for me, and if I feel like it’s still tight and inexpressive, I can bring out the decanter to expose an entire bottle of wine to air.
Some people swear by these devices, but I don’t subscribe to the idea that every wine needs aeration, and my experiments with these devices have been inconclusive. I also like to watch my wines evolve in my glass without extra variables at play.
If you want to use an aerator, I suspect they’re better served with younger, tighter wines for the most part. In my experience, once a wine hits the 10-year mark, it can start to show mature notes, and some of the fruit flavors can start to fade—an aerator might speed up the fading.
That said, I’m sure there are plenty of 20-plus-year-old bottles of wine that would benefit from some vigorous aeration, and possibly an aerator. I think my advice in all scenarios would be to always take a sip of the wine first to see if it needs more aeration, and so that you’re learning how your aerator is affecting your wines.