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What To Drink Now: To Vinturi or Not

I am a big believer in decanting wine…young or old, New World or Old… especially young wine that needs the help of a decanter to aid in the aerating of a bottle that perhaps should have rested a while longer.  For years I have heard the pros of using the Vinturi device, the handy wine gadget sold anywhere from Brookstone and World Market to your local wine shop and grocery store, but just couldn’t get on board, even after receiving a few of them as gifts.  It seemed silly to me to pour your wine through a silly device claiming it will instantly change the aroma and flavor profile of a wine. Why bother, I thought, if I want to aerate a wine I will simply decant it….

Boy was I wrong….over the weekend I had a very young bottle of wine I had received as a sample for editorial consideration, and it was good but also very young.  I decided to break out one of the Vinturi devices I had received as a gift from my sister (a big believer in the device) and see if it would change anything about the wine.  Within 30 seconds of pouring the wine through the Vinturi, the wine changed, softening some of the harsh tannin notes, relaxing some of the big fruit forward aromas and assisting in the opening of the wine creating an enjoyable glass.

After this I decided to do a few taste tests with several bottles of good everyday table wine averaging about around $15-$20 each, ranging in vintage from 2008 – 2010.  I will note I tend to like a wine with a little age on it, but in order to do my job I open new releases all the time, often opening a bottle a few hours prior to drinking to let it open up a bit and breathe.  Over the weekend the simple step of using this device saved time both when I needed to open a bottle and when I needed to clean up afterwards as washing the Vinturi takes about a tenth of the time it takes to wash a decanter.

A few examples – I will refrain from listing the brands I tested, instead giving general descriptions of the wine.
A 2008 Central California Cabernet Sauvignon, opened just prior to drinking, poured into a Riedel Bordeaux glass.  Just poured from the bottle the wine was very fruit forward, jammy and tight, with bright aromas of cherry, red plum and raspberry.  You could sense some toasty smoke and licorice notes, but mainly it was the fruit.  When poured through the Vinturi, the wine immediately softened the ripe red fruit notes and brought in black licorice, cedar, and toasted cigar box.  Surprising,but maybe it was just for that wine. Further tests were needed.

Next, I tried a young 2010 Chardonnay from Carneros.  Carneros is known for producing great Chardonnay, and this one promised to be delicious even though it was young.  I did remove the wine from the refrigerator about 10 minutes before opening to take some of the chill off to more accurately get a sense of the aromas and the flavors. When poured into a Riedel “O” glass, the initial aromas were of ripe sweetened pears, honeysuckle, and juicy melon, with similar flavors. The wine was delicious, and certainly drinkable.  However, then pouring the wine through the Vinturi softened the fruit forward notes to reveal a balanced wine with hints of tangerine, spice, and stone fruit intertwined with honeydew, melon, pears and floral notes.

To see how the Vinturi compared to a traditional decanter, I opened a bottle of 2009 Pinot Noir from a top producer in Oregon.  I poured a bit into a Riedel Burgundy glass produced for the winery of the wine I was trying, then poured half the bottle into a top of the line decanter and left the rest in the bottle to be poured through the Vinturi, replacing the cork.  The initial sip of the just-poured Pinot was delicious. If you are ever curious about if the glass really can make a difference, it really does.  Fruit forward and filled with cranberry, strawberry, spice, and cola – exactly what I would expect from a quality Oregon Pinot.  I then tried a bit of the just-opened wine poured through the Vinturi.  The wine began to display herbal notes intertwined with the bright fruit and spice characteristics. I then waited about an hour and a half and tried both the decanted wine and then poured some of the remaining bottle through the Vinturi.  The decanted bottle showed similar notes as the glass that had been poured through the Vinturi just after opening, bringing some of the earthiness and herbal notes that define Oregon Pinot Noir so well, even in this young of a bottle, along with berry and cherry aromas; the Vinturi displayed the same.  Was the bottle that had been decanted for a few hours that different than the glass that the Vinturi had been used on just after opening?  Only slightly, and if you weren’t conducting a test like this it was probably not enough to really notice.

I tried one additional red for this test, a 2009 Cabernet from Alexander Valley, and on its own it was delicious.  Bold and expressive with blackberry and cherry cobbler flavors intertwined with eucalyptus and leather notes. Just opened, it was a very good bottle of wine.  The Vinturi didn’t change the flavors in this wine as much as the first Cabernet we used it on, but it did soften the fruit-forward aspect of the wine, allowing more of the herbal and spice notes to shine through.

This wasn’t an extensive test by any means, but I am the first to admit I have been wrong to resist the use of this little device, which has now found a home on the bar by my wine opener.  If anything, with very little time and effort you are able to make the every day bottle of wine taste that much better.  I didn’t try it on older wines or very expensive wines, but if you are like a good  majority of wine buyers who go to the store and buy a bottle that they intend to drink that night, the Vinturi might just be the key to elevating your $15 bottle of wine from good to great.

7 comments on “What To Drink Now: To Vinturi or Not

  1. Thanks for the review, Hayley. I know know what the mother of my children is getting for Mother’s Day. :)

  2. Good article. I suggest to our customers and guests that a vinturi will help a young wine open up, just as you have described above. I suggest that for older wines, say 10 to 15 years or older, it is better to decant than to use a vinturi because it will be gentler on the wine.

  3. Hayley – when testing the Chardonnay, did you use the Venturi targeted to whites, or did you use the same Venturi you used for the reds?