[Photograph: Vinturi.com]

It seemed like a good indication that when I bought my Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator ($39.95 at vinturi.com) a few weeks ago, the man at the checkout counter started a long-winded rave about the product. "This thing is incredible! You're making a brilliant purchase! Such a good use of your money!" I chuckled and wondered if "essential" should really be part of the title. My expectations had every reason to be high coming off the salesman's claims, but I figured the proof would be in the pudding (and by pudding, obviously I mean my wine-filled belly).

Coming off an epic wine and cheese party for my birthday in July, I resolved to make the best of the leftover bottles of red—so what if they were primarily made up of budget purchases based entirely off fun labels? I had a helper, and if all went according to plan, my bourgeois leftovers could get a nice little facelift. Numerous tests later, it turns out that even my two buck chuck can go down a whole lot smoother when properly aerated—the difference is rather impressive.

The Vinturi is pretty straightforward as far as gadgetry goes. The sleek looking glass contraption, meant for red wines exclusively, has a wide hole fitted with a strainer (to catch any sediment) and a smaller spout on the other side—you pour into the wide end, through the spout, and down into your glass. It's a technique that requires a little bit of getting used to (sometimes it's hard to tell how much to pour before the glass will be appropriately filled) and can result in some drippage along the way, but gets easier with time. I likened this progression to an upside-down U-shaped curve: The more you practice, the easier it is to gauge how you're pouring, but at some point in the night, you've probably poured a bit too much and the job becomes harder all over again.

What happens in the glass is remarkable. One wine went from being overly tannic and undrinkable to having beautifully enticing berry notes and a fruity aroma—it was a true night and day comparison that seemed almost impossible. Honestly, how was this the same wine? Not only was the flavor improved, but the finish became extremely smooth. The bottle we'd taken one sip of and grimaced about went down nice and easy from start to finish—I even wanted more by the time it was gone. Talk about a transformation.

The best part? It takes seconds to work, is perfectly designed for both aesthetic and function, catches sediment on the way, and even has a modern-looking stand to use in between pours. The guy at Sur La Table was absolutely right—not only will these $40 improve your wonderful wine purchases, but they'll make your $7 wines taste like real winners too. In my book, that's money saved down the line!


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