We have tested and reviewed a few aerators in the past, and when I came across the Optiwine pocket decanter made in France which looked really intriguing, I requested a sample to review. This was one of the hardest reviews I have done.
Aeration and decanting is used to mix air and wine together to open up the wine that in turn enhances the flavors of the wine. A common decanter is sometime used to allow air to get to the wine, but that process requires waiting and an aerator makes the process faster. I went into more detail on decanting and aerating on my Aervana wine aerator review if you want to learn more.
I received the packaged Optiwine in a nice bag and within the bag was a box containing three Optiwines of different sizes designed for bottles from 375ml bottles to magnums. An instruction card made it clear of the purpose for the three sizes:
- 4 – red wine 0 to 4 years old
- 6 – red wine 5 to 10 years old, or white and rosé from 0 to 2 years old
- 8 – red wine greater than 10 years old, or white and rosé greater than 2 years old
Michael Paetzold, known in wine for 25 years and expert in oeno-techniques, spent three years researching to perfect the Optiwine method and Olivier Caste spent one year to design the Optiwine. The Optiwine is made of Surlyn, which is a high quality resin with the same transparency and delicacy as crystal but without its fragility. Each Optiwine has 16 sides with the goal of each one being essential for the harmonious redistribution of the optimum quantity of oxygen. The whole process uses a method of nano-aeration allowing the controlled introduction of up to 100 times less oxygen.
There is a nice instruction card with photos on how to use the Optiwine and just to be clear, there is a page in the instruction booklet describing the process. I read the page and this is the general process:
- After removing the cork, immediately insert the correct Optiwine into the bottle
- Gently awaken the wine by slowly moving the bottle back and forth with a smooth rocking motion two to five times depending on the size of the wine bottle. This operation ensures the necessary nano-aeration of the wine and activates its aromatic development.
- “The longer you wait (at least 10 minutes before serving) the better the wine will be”
At this point I was completely confused. If I had the time to wait, why wouldn’t I just put the wine in a regular decanter and wait? Aeration is supposed to speed up the process making waiting unnecessary. Granted, 10 minutes may be better than 30 minutes, but the statement about the longer you wait was just like normal decanting.
I had looked at the photo instructions and read the written instructions, so I was ready to try it out. I selected a 2013 Chateau Le Coin from Bordeaux for my experiment. I followed the instructions and inserted the Optiwine into the wine bottle. When doing the gentle rocking of the wine bottle, I quickly learned the Optiwine does not seal the bottle like a cork, but leaves play around the edges for air as wine came out. I redid my rocking motion to avoid that problem.
I waited 10 minutes and tried the wine. It tasted fine but nothing jumped out at me. I used one of my other aerators and the other aerator immediately showed an improved difference. I just could not say that the Optiwine was better at that point, so I had to wait for the next time I opened a worthy bottle to try again.
The next time involved a 2009 Bending Branch Tannat that some decanting would be helpful as it had proved to be so on a previous aerator review. This one required the middle sized Optiwine and I followed the same steps. I compared again against another aerator and the other aerator made the wine softer.
I was frustrated, but I was not ready to give up yet. I re-read the instruction booklet and discovered a page in the back describing how to do comparative tasting to “fully appreciate the Optiwine phenomenon.” This comparison required two identical bottles of wine. I had to wait until I was able to get two bottles of wine that might show some difference. That time soon came when we had two bottles of 2015 William Chris Vineyards Malbec. Young wines can be tight or closed on the nose or palate, and the winery themselves use an aerator when doing their tastings, so the Malbec had to be a good comparison candidate.
It was now time for the recommended comparative tasting. The instructions said to uncork both bottles, but use the Optiwine in one bottle and leave the other bottle open or transfer it into a carafe. Again, wait at least 10 minutes and pour the wines into identical glasses to observe the development of the wine over time.
I made sure to have my fiancée with me to observe and to ensure I was doing everything correctly, and also be a test subject. We actually waited 15-20 minutes and then tried the comparison. We compared the wines from both bottles in separate glasses and could not tell the difference. She has a great nose and palate, so I know it wasn’t just me. I pulled out the other aerator and used it in the non-Optiwined bottle. It might have been better to have three bottles for a true comparison, but even though it was difficult to tell, I could detect an improvement in the aroma and taste from the newly aerated bottle.
I really had hoped to see an improvement from using the Optiwine pocket decanter, but after opening four bottles of wine and not seeing much improvement, I had to call my testing complete. In my opinion, most other aerators I have tried do improve the aroma and taste of the wine immediately, and if I have to wait 10 or more minutes, I might as well decant the wine in a regular decanter.
My judgement may not be like yours, so I highly encourage if you want to do your own comparison, please purchase an Optiwine at their website, currently $55 euros (@$59 US dollars) for the three Optiwine sizes.