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Have you used a wine aerator?
I don't drink wine. 12%  12%  [ 2 ]
Never. 53%  53%  [ 9 ]
Used one once, and threw it away. 12%  12%  [ 2 ]
I use one for really old/tannic wines. 12%  12%  [ 2 ]
I use mine all the time; don't you? 12%  12%  [ 2 ]
Total votes : 17
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 Post subject: Re: What's up with the aerators?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2011 11:13 am 
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Joined: Sat Mar 19, 2011 10:09 am
Posts: 351
Location: Newton, MA
(from the WSJ recently on wine accessories and a funny vignette about a wine aerator). Favorite line, "Even if the aerators aren't actually that effective at opening a wine, they were an excellent way to open a discussion."

Accessories Aim to Make Wine Even More Fun

One of my favorite George Carlin routines has to do with the accumulation and burden of "stuff": "The whole meaning of life is trying to find a place for your stuff," he said. "That's all a house is—a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff."

Mr. Carlin's observation came to mind while I was looking at wine accessories recently. I found practical stuff like carry bags and coolers and foil cutters and corkscrews, and more esoteric stuff like aerators and port tongs and wine-preservation systems. (Can something actually be called an "accessory" if it requires three words?) But most of all, I found lots of, well, stuff—jewelry for wine glasses, bottle holders shaped like roosters and chefs.

I have plenty of wine and plenty of stuff, but I have rarely conjoined the two, unless you count corkscrews and wine glasses. (I have about 12 of the former and dozens of the latter, though I regard them as more "necessities" than "accessories.") And yet, accessories are everywhere at this time of year—it's the Season of Stuff, of course. At Gary's Wines in Wayne, N.J., where I went shopping recently, the wine accessories dominated the entire front of the store. There were all kinds of gift bags, gadgets, corkscrews and ties—as well as lots of stuff made from wine barrels, like platters and candleholders and Lazy Susans. It was as if an entire winery had been dismantled and put back together for decorative use.

Nancy Lederman, the accessories buyer for Gary's (there actually is such a job), divides her wine accessories into two categories: "perennials" and "new trends." Corkscrews are a perennial. So are wine bags, perhaps because nearly everyone in New Jersey carries wine along to restaurants—many restaurants in the state lack liquor licenses and are BYOB.

Ms. Lederman's favorite "new trends" in accessories include beaded bottle covers, which she said were particularly big right now. I didn't get it. Why would someone want to cover their wine with a bunch of plastic beads unless the label was ugly or the wine was cheap? Ms. Lederman couldn't say, but she noted that they were nearly as popular as the leopard-print wine bags and a carrier bag shaped like a Tootsie Roll. "That was a big seller last year," she said. What kind people would want to pretend their wine was candy? I asked. "Women," Ms. Lederman replied.

Women are the biggest buyers of accessories, according to Marshall Tilden III, sales manager of the Wine Enthusiast, a New York-based company that is one of the biggest purveyors of accessories, both retail and wholesale (it sells to about 500 stores nationwide). His company's most popular accessory is currently the Electric Blue Corkscrew, he said. After that, perhaps wine aerators, although he also does a very brisk business in a bottle holder shaped like a shoe (a zebra-print stiletto, in fact).

I was less intrigued by the shoe than I was by the corkscrew. It looked like a very large lighter, the kind you might hold up at a rock concert. How did it work? Mr. Tilden suggested I watch the video on the company website, where a man repeated the line: "We don't know an easier way to take a cork out of a bottle."

I decided to give the $29 device a try and picked up a few additional items—a spray to remove wine stains and a stopper for Champagne (they were practical) and some "wine pens" that allow drinkers to write or draw on wine glasses. (I had to have some fun stuff, too.) I was going to buy an aerator as well, but a friend had sent me one in the mail a week before with a note that said it had "transformed" her life.

I tried the aerator first. Although there are several types of aerators, they are all meant to work like a decanter—making a too-young or too-closed wine "breathe" by introducing air to the wine. The type my friend gave me was the Soiree, a bulbous glass tube that you stick inside the neck of the bottle before pouring. When the bottle is inverted, the wine combines with air in the bulb as it is poured. It seemed like fun, and it was a lot faster (and more portable) than a decanter, but did it actually work?

I tried it on a bottle of slightly tight Pinot Noir. The difference was slight—the wine was a little bit softer, "maybe 5% more," said my friend who tasted the "before" and "after" wine. I agreed. We tried it again, this time with a young Cabernet. The difference was a bit more noticeable—the wine softening a bit more each time I inverted the bottle—though arguably it got just as soft sitting in the glass as it was exposed to air.

But I became obsessed with its transformative powers, trying it on one wine after another (a still-young Barolo, a Super Tuscan), and soon I began carrying my aerator everywhere (was this what my friend meant when she said it changed her life?). I even took it along to my favorite BYO restaurant in New Jersey, Divina. "I've seen a lot of those," said the waitress. (In New Jersey it's apparently common to bring along both accessories and wine to restaurants.) "But do they really work?" she asked. A few minutes later, the chef, Mario, came by and repeated the question. I told them both the same thing: "I really don't know." (Even if the aerators aren't actually that effective at opening a wine, they were an excellent way to open a discussion.)

A week or so later, my Electric Blue Corkscrew arrived. After half a dozen outings with my aerator, I was ready for a new toy—I mean, wine accessory. The cork is removed with a push of a button while a blue light flashes ceremoniously. I tried it out a few times in front of my family and some friends, who pronounced it "cool"—until it got stuck. The corkscrew had lost its charge and I had to pull at the cork with my fingers and finish it with a regular waiter's corkscrew (from Laguiole, which many believe make the best corkscrews in the world, even if they merely come with polished wood handles, not flashing blue lights.)

As it turned out, the only wine accessories that were an unalloyed success were the wine pens, which could be used on glasses and the writing washed off afterward. My friends and I used them to write tasting notes directly on the glasses, and pictures of our aromatic impressions (blueberries, cherries, tobacco). They were great fun, although after a while they ended up in the same kitchen drawer as the aerator, the Electric Blue Corkscrew, the Champagne corks, the wine-stain remover—and everything else. Isn't that where everyone keeps their stuff, after all?

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