(Photo credit: Oandu)
Wine tends to attract a lot of snobs who use bad French to ruin things.
Done at the dinner table, a brutal technique called “hyperdecanting” will appall that muppet with the popped collar on his polo shirt. It will also make your wine delicious, and make you a hero to everyone who wants to punch him in his smug little face. [cue 0:24]
On a practical level, you can outgun most faux-sommeliers (see what I did there?) with a little brute force. To do this, you first need to understand a bit about aeration.
When in Rome
Generally speaking, letting your wine “breathe” makes it taste better. Just like in our gluten-free kitten pancakes (see pg. 147*), a little air goes a long way…
Letting wine “breathe” equals increasing the surface area of the wine exposed to air for a set period of time. In wine-speak, this “opens the bouquet” (releases aroma compounds) and “softens” the flavor. In simple terms, it usually makes it taste better. Though the mechanism is debated, it appears to reduce the cotton-mouth effects of tannins, which makes aeration perfectly suited to “big” red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux. In another context, tannins are what make your mouth feel puckered and chalky if you drink overbrewed black tea. Aeration may also minimize wine defects like mercaptins, not to be confused with midichlorians.
Enough with the details, Ferriss. How do I aerate?
We’ll look at four methods: swirling and swishing, decanting, using a Vinturi, and beating the sh*t out of it. I’ll explain how to use them first, and there is a demo video at the end.
Method 1: Swirling and Swishing
This is the standard tabletop move. To avoid making an ass of yourself: Hold the glass by the stem, keeping the glass base on the table, and move it in fast but small circles. Take a small sip, hold the wine in your mouth as you tilt your head forward, and suck in a thin stream of air, almost as if you’re gargling upside down. Swallow and make a mmm-like sound to indicate deep thought.
Slap yourself if you do this while your friends are drinking Coronas.
Method 2: Decanting
Decanting is, strictly speaking, transferring liquid from one container to another. The Romans pioneered the use of glass decanters, which they used to remove sediment, leaving the gunk in the original storage vessel.
Decanters with wide bases are now used to expose wine to air, often for 1–2 hours or more.
Method 3: The Vinturi and Wordplay
The Vinturi® wine aerator is a handheld plastic device that capitalizes on Bernoulli’s Principle. Mr. B’s rule dictates—in simple terms—that as you increase the speed of a fluid’s movement, you decrease its pressure. Decrease the pressure of wine and it becomes easier to infuse more air in less time.
If you pour wine from the bottle, through the Vinturi, and directly into a friend’s wineglass, you will hear the accelerated siphoning of air into the stream, which also has a nice party-trick effect. Bingo: Mr. Science–style aeration and a nice shortcut.
The difference is subtle, but it makes for less waiting and less cleanup than traditional decanting.
Method 4: Beat the Sh*t Out of It
This method is not subtle. It’s a scientifically well-founded middle finger pointed at people who give a wonderful beverage a bad name.
I owe a hat tip to the brilliant Nathan Myhrvold, former CTO of Microsoft, master French chef, and creator of the iconic, never-to-be-outdone, $600 (or $450 here) cooking encyclopedia, Modernist Cuisine.
If aeration is exposing more liquid surface area to air, how can we take this to its logical extreme?
Blend it into a fury, of course. Nathan has done this with vintage wine gifted to him by Spanish royalty, but I’d suggest a practice run on something from Trader Joe’s first. Here’s how I do it:
– Pour 1–2 glasses of the wine into a large mixing bowl or—my favorite—a large Bomex beaker. If you’re using the latter, 600 ml of wine is perfect for the next step; just leave plenty of room at the top (I fill to around 400 ml). Take a sip for a good sense of “before.”
– Lower an immersion blender, also called a “stick” blender, into the glass, then blend for 20–30 seconds. Tip your container (or tilt the blender best you can) to enhance the foaming effect. If you have a standing blender like a Vitamix, feel free to go nuts.
The wine should now have a nice heady froth on it, like a proper Guinness. Pour into a serving cup—I favor a 250-ml Bomex, which is exactly one-third of a standard bottle of wine—and enjoy. It should taste markedly different. And, ladies and gents, that is how you achieve 3 hours of decanting, sans fancy descriptors, in 20–30 seconds. Wink at your most offended guest and ask them if they arm wrestle.
Thank you, Mr. Myhrvold.
(*P.S. The gluten-free kitten pancakes are a joke.)
The above is one of hundreds of shortcuts from The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life, available here at 50-80% off before the holidays.
Odds and Ends: Kindle Fire Winners!
The following 50 people shall receive the free Kindle Fire devices, unless they didn’t send us their mailing addresses. All of the below have received emails about the giveaway, so if you didn’t get an email and are reading this… not to worry. We’ll have more fun coming. Happy holidays!
Jared M Johnson
Pius Uzamere II
Ship times may vary, but I’m doing my best to get all of them to you by X-mas. Best not to count on it, but I’m double-checking again tomorrow.
Posted on: December 18, 2011.
Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.