Monday, October 10, 2011

Vinturi Wine Aerator - Don't Waste Your Money

Once again, Jack throws himself on top of a grenade to save everyone else. 


My fellow blogger-in-Bend and man of letters H. Bruce Miller and Sharon, his beautiful and brilliant wife, came over this weekend for dinner at maison Elliott. I cooked rack of lamb, Mrs Elliott made mashed garlic cauliflower and appetizers.

And there was wine, plenty of wine.

Bruce brought over his swell new Vinturi wine aerator. If you're into wine, you may have seen this device which goes for anywhere between $25 to $40, depending on where you shop. They claim that it aerates wine while it's being poured, eliminating that horrible horrible tedious entirely old-fashioned decanting and waiting for the wine to breathe and open up.

When he first told me about it, I expressed my doubts about the claims and suggested we do a double-blind tasting session. Bruce agreed and offered to bring three bottles of the same wine. He selected a moderately-priced, moderately-tannic Zinfandel, which pairs well with lamb.

The experiment was set up so each person got three glasses of wine: one poured straight out of the bottle, one decanted traditionally, and one poured through the Vinturi. Each glass had a label (A, B, or C) on the bottom, which they could not see without lifting and looking at the underside of the glass. Bruce and I did the pouring, Mrs Elliott, who was not in the room, then mixed up the glasses and set them up for our panel of distinguished tasters.

At this point, no one knew what glass was what.

Uncle Jack says, "Don't bother!"
So we tasted, we discussed, and we tasted some more.

There was no difference between the wines.

Unfortunately, in the hustle and bustle of preparing dinner, it didn't occur to me that the decanted bottle should have been allowed to breathe for a half hour or so, in the traditional manner, but considering that the Vinturi is claimed to speed the breathing process, the wine poured through it should at least have tasted better than the wine that came straight out of the bottle.

But no one could taste it.

The Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator: Not recommended. 

Dessert was Pear Flambé in a red wine and orange reduction sauce. Jack nearly set fire to his eyebrows, but the end result was delicious. This, followed by cigars on the back porch. Until the cold drove us indoors to see what the ladies were chatting about.

4 comments:

  1. Aha! I thought this was the case, but never had a chance to scientifically study it, as you have. Plus they make this weird and unpleasant gurgling sound as the wine filters through.

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  2. The "weird gurgling sound" -- actually I'd describe it as more of a sucking sound -- is one of the things I like about the Vinturi device. It's fun.

    I think the Vinturi idea is sound in principle; the idea is to get air into the wine, and the device does put air into the wine. But it probably doesn't put enough air into the wine to make a difference.

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  3. And thanks for describing Sharon as beautiful and brilliant. She is.

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  4. The following review was posted on Amazon:

    "I love wine, particularly reds, so when I received this Vinturi device, I couldn't wait to test it. In my youth, I had worked as a manager at a French restaurant with one of the top wine lists in the country, so I knew all too well the importance of allowing a fine wine to breathe, thus maximizing the bouquet and flavor through the oxidation. Now, of course, far removed from that life, I just like my wines to be enjoyable.

    "The first time I tried my Vinturi, it was a disaster. I didn't want to try it out on an expensive wine for fear of ruining it, so I chose a inexpensive red wine, an Australian Shiraz. Because I used it in a restaurant with ten people at the table watching , I tilted the device toward me so I could reach it, and poured. Red wine spilled everywhere. As the wine passed through the device, it sounded like a soda machine that was close to empty. Although I could taste the difference between a glass poured right out of the bottle and one poured through the Vinturi, the difference was barely noticeable. Was it worth the spilled wine and the only slight taste difference? Suffice it to say that I was ready to bury it at the bottom of a drawer.

    "But then . . .

    "I decided to give the Vinturi another try. I knew that the spillage most likely had to do with how I had held the device and/or the bottle. My second attempt, on a better red, a Rhone with a relatively recent vintage, worked much better. I held the Vinturi straight up and down, and poured from a standing position rather than reaching across a table. The only spill came from a few drips at the bottom after I removed it, and even then, they collected in the included holder, not on the table. The wine, which needed a few more years in the bottle, was noticeably changed after it had been poured through the Vinturi. The tannins were softened, and the flavor enhanced. However, it was not until I used the Vinturi on a big California blend, a high-quality red that needed another five to eight years in the bottle, that the most noticeable change occurred. Without the Vinturi, the taste was tight, high in tannin (which lends that dry, puckery sensation), and definitely too young despite the obvious underlying complexity. The Vinturi opened that wine up so that it tasted as though it had been aged for another five years. The difference was marked. I was sold. ...

    "The Vinturi is obviously manufactured for oenophiles, people who regularly drink high-quality red wines and can taste the difference. Don't bother getting this if you're primarily a white wine drinker (whites don't need the kind of breathing that reds do) or if you always buy wine that is ready to drink. Since less expensive wines are generally sold to be drinkable immediately, they are not affected the same way that wines destined for cellars are. And there's no way that any device can make a so-so wine into a good one. That happens at the winery, never at the table."

    So possibly the problem was that the wine I brought wasn't good enough. Clearly, another blind tasting with higher-quality wine is in order!

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