Gadget Review: Wine Carafe
Purchased at: Virtually anywhere (Ok maybe not a 7-11, gas station McDonalds but anywhere that has wine supplies will have them). We’ve had ours for about 15 years.
Cost: $10.00 to $300.00
Our series of wine breathing tests seemed incomplete without giving the tried and true wine carafe a shot at “fame”. It’s the oldest and most commonly used gadget but it typically requires at least 20 to 30 minutes of breathing to do the wine justice. Our tests are geared to those of us who work long hours and don’t have the time (or patience) to wait half an hour to enjoy red wines.
We decided to try a “forced aeration” by swirling the wine in the decanter for about 30 seconds to see if that could cause a significant improvement in the wine.
Also keep in mind that a carafe is really for two purposes though. Arguably, the primary use is to allow the server to carefully pour wine with sediment into another container while leaving the sediment in the bottle. For those of you who don’t mind pulp in your orange juice, a little sediment in your wine may not be a bad thing. However, if you are serving a well aged wine where a fair amount of sediment has fallen to the bottom, it can ruin the experience, particularly if the wine is a subtle and well balanced one, so regardless of the outcome of our aeration test, a wine carafe still has an important place in any wine repertoire.
Bear in mind that there are hundreds of different wine carafes on the market so we picked one similar to ours from Riedel’s website to find their advertised purpose. Riedel is probably the largest premium wine glass maker in the world.
“I prefer to decant wines, both young and old. It is a sign of respect for old wines and a sign of confidence in young wines. Decanting old wines, just a few moments before they are served, helps to ensure that the wines’ clarity and brilliance are not obscured by any deposit that may have developed over time. Decanting young wines several hours before they are served gives the wine a chance to bloom and attain a stage of development that normally requires years of aging. (Thoughts on decanting by Christian Moueix)”
Ok…perhaps a touch pompous but it does illustrate the point that a decanter is typically used to aerate wine over an extended amount of time, not how we are attempting to use it.
Expectation/What it means:
Unlike most other wine gadgets, we didn’t go into this with any expectations because we are not using the carafe in the manner intended by the manufacturer. This was going to be as new to us as it was to our readers.
The Process and Measurements:
As always, each of our intrepid wine explorers were asked to rate two glasses of wine, one poured directly from the bottle (the control glass) and the other from the wine carafe. The glasses then sat for about 5 minutes while our son, the most qualified person we know to officiate a drinking test due to the fact that he is currently in college, labeled each glass with a unique label (“A” though “H”). This insured that no one could pick up on comments made by some one else about a glass with the same label. However, the tasters were free to discuss what they thought while tasting because no one knew which glass was which.
A successful result is one where a majority of the tasters clearly preferred one glass to another (assuming of course it was the aerated glass). If the testers actually preferred the un-aerated glass, run and hide as far as possible from the device we are testing.
To induce the intended “accelerated wine breathing”, after pouring 1/2 of the bottle into the wine carafe, I gently swirled it for 30 seconds to attempt to force more air into the wine.
Disappointing is the best way to describe them. Although we were using the wine carafe in a different manner that that which it was designed for, we had hoped that swirling it would produce more favorable results. However, only two of the four tasters chose the wine from the carafe and frankly, all four tasters had a difficult time differentiating so there was no real difference.
I actually thought the swirling of the wine coupled with a surface area of the wine carafe that is 250% larger than a wine bottle would make significant difference but the change was virtually imperceptible. Apparently 30 seconds just isn’t long enough.
Would Winery Sage Recommend This Product?
Of course, just not for how we attempted to use it. The wine carafe made no real difference for a quick aeration but if you have time to allow the wine to sit for an extended amount of time and/or want sediment out of the wine, this really is the best way to do it.
1) A 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from Burrell School in the Santa Cruz Mountains was used. While it is a well balanced wine, just after opening it has some pretty aggressive tannins and benefits from 30 minutes or so of glass breathing prior to enjoying it. The test was administered with a single bottle to avoid any bottle variation.
2) The temperature of the wine was roughly 66 degrees when the experiment took place, roughly in the middle of our recommended temperature range for Cabernet Sauvignon. If you have questions about why a room temperature wine wasn’t used, we suggest that you read our serving wine page on the main Winery-Sage.com site.
3) Ambient temperature was quite hot, in the mid 80s.
4) When we evaluate a piece of wine equipment, we usually try and design a test that produces measurable results. In this case, tasting a wine to see how it has changed is very subjective so we decided to tabulate results using four different tasters to give us more than one opinion.
5) Identical glasses were used for all tastes to eliminate variability.
6) Each taster normalized their pallet by eating a peace of bland French bread to avoid any after tastes from previous meals contaminating the results.
Disclaimer and Winery-Sage.com Practices When Reviewing A Product:
Winery-Sage.com does not take any endorsements or funds from manufacturers whose equipment we review. We attempt to impart all of the facts as we’ve observed them (the Good, the Bad and the downright Ugly). We may interject a little irreverence now and again but hopefully you’ll see that our experiments are based on scientific methods and try to rely on several opinions when the results are subjective rather than measurable.
To the best of our ability, we follow all of the instruction provided by the manufacturer.
Manufacturers are allowed to submit products for a review but if we receive a product, we will publish a review, whether the results are favorable or not.