The other night at dinner, a friend who typically ages wines impeccably ordered a 2018 Grand Cru Chablis. I was a little surprised. It wasn’t his usual style at all.
The bottle arrived and he began a lengthy conversation with the sommelier, some of which I could hear. The somm was consulting his phone—and I wondered if there was a problem. Then I heard “Try setting it at 2.” I was intrigued.
Our somm had topped the bottle with a sleek black device that showed an electronic readout. An aerator perhaps? If so, this was no kitchen counter gadget. It seemed like something a bit more sophisticated. He selected a setting and poured.
I’ve long been a skeptic of most instant wine aging devices. Aerators—devices that introduce oxygen into wine to mimic aging or decanting—have their place, but magnets that clip to the bottle neck and electronic platforms for decanters? They don’t often yield noticeable results even though they promise to make a young wine taste like it’s 10 years old. I’ve remained unconvinced.
The Aveine electric decanter bills itself as the “first smart wine aerator,” and it is indeed a sophisticated piece of wine aeration technology tied to an app. Once you connect the device, the app scans the label and guides you with decanting advice. The French company has better traction in the European restaurant community than the U.S., touting use by professionals across France. The database is heavier on European wines than U.S. offerings, but users can upload labels and information.
The Aveine’s internal mechanism introduce microbubbles of oxygen into the wine’s flow as it’s poured through the device. Because the bubbles are so small, they microscopically produce an oxidation similar to oxygen exposure from decanting from 2 to 24 hours. Simple hand-held aerators only let you pour the through a mechanism that stirs the wine up, adding air as you pour.
The device is designed for restaurants where wine professionals are dealing with current releases of fine wines. And while the technology is impressive, the benefit of the Aveine is the database of wines and suggested decant times. You simply take a photo of the label with your phone and the app pulls the wine from the database. Adjust the vintage and the app will say “decant 3 hours.” Individual users can make additional adjustments and even add their own recommendations.
The signature “24-hour” device ($449) is going to set you back, but could be invaluable if you have a restaurant or wine bar with a strong list. A new model, the Aveine 12-hour ($299) offers a shorter decant time.
“It’s a European maker so their database on U.S. wines isn’t as complete,” explained my friend, noting it was easier to find listings for young Bordeaux than it was for California Pinots; he adds wines from his California- and Oregon-heavy collection as he goes. “I’m into data, so I argue with it sometimes and change the decant times.” But that’s half the fun.
At dinner, eager for experiment, we sampled the wine straight from the bottle—a bright, fresh, citrusy and very young Grand Cru Chablis. Then, we tried it with a 6-hour decant time. The wine showed a lovely mellowness, still with bright acid and yellow fruits like pear and green apple. The change was remarkable, well beyond what you’d taste from a handheld aeration device. At an even longer decant time, the wine began to show mellow fruits and even a hint of the nutty oxidation you’d fine with an appropriately aged Grand Cru Chablis. “That was 10 hours,” our somm told us. The wine was remarkable.