Centellino Wine Aerator
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Centellino Wine Aerator

My philosophy regarding wine gadgets has always been simple. They cost money (better spent on wine itself). They take up cupboard space (always at a premium). My simple waiter's corkscrew and my Vacu Vin are pretty much it. I do own several decanters, but no matter how much I believe in “giving red wines some air,” I usually use the decanters only when I have a sediment issue, or when I have guests and know I can account for an entire bottle of wine. Home alone, I let the wine take on air in the glass, when and if I can wait. Decanting would be better, but some air is better than none, and no washing is better than even a little.

Envision this scenario. Seven o'clock rolls around. I have no wine open. I am not even planning on drinking wine that evening. I settle in front of the television, turn on Jeopardy, and I rock. Man, not one of those idiots got the Final Jeopardy question. Of course it was “Who is Tolstoy?” Aren't they educated? Now I want to open that wine, if anything just to calm myself down after my triumph. I want my wine, and I cannot wait until the yawning hour of nine. Not to worry, I have my Centellino.

If I am going to acquire a gadget, let it be Italian. I seem to be in love with anything Italian: the wine and food, of course, the language as it glides off my tongue, but, as a teenager, I was so taken with the Italian actress Monica Vitti from Michelangelo Antonioni's film Red Desert that I later married a woman named Monica, and then, after being divorced, married another woman named Monica. I am again single. You Monicas out there, beware. But I digress. The Centellino (chen-tel-LEE-no) is nicely designed to initiate the oxidation process in a wine, enabling texture and opening up aroma and flavor, all the while providing the perfect 100ml pour. You tilt the bottle one way first, filling up a glass bulb. The wine opens up as it spreads along the sides of the bulb. You then turn the bottle to fill your glass using a spout at the other end of the device, adding further oxygen in the process.

It is true that you do not have to give much air to a lighter red like a Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais, but why be forced down that road if you crave a big red wine, just because you forgot to decant? The sudden craving for a white wine brings a similar paradox, that of forgetting to chill in advance. Fear not; gadgets exist for this purpose as well. (It is never a good idea to keep white wines in the refrigerator over long periods of time “just in case.”)

My first test of the Centellino, on a 2004 Shingleback D Block Reserve McLaren Vale Cab, was confounded by the fact that the Cab tasted fairly accessible in my sample pour right out of the bottle, yet I must report that two glasses of the Cab went down rather smoothly (and inordinately quickly). This Cab was big on fruit but not particularly tannic, leaving a need for further testing, but I felt that the Centellino was doing its part to soften that in-your-face fruit. I stress the word “felt.” Any test that involves swallowing wine is not scientific from the outset, and becomes less so as it progresses. But maybe this is not so. If a wine is tight, if a wine wants to fight, one would expect the consumption level to be restrained, hardly the case here.

Moving on to one of the biggest wines on my shelves, a 2003 Tenuta Angela Aglianico del Vulture, the Centellinoed glass brought tangibly greater fruit and spice to the nose, more accessible and less astringent tannins to the mouth, and finished slightly longer. Again, the wine passed my newly-discovered “drink-through” test. I would say something right was going on.

My third run-through occurred with a 2005 Casa Gran del Siurana Priorat Gran Cruor, a deeply extracted Spanish wine with formidable tannins. Here we (another soul was on hand to warm my evening) both remarked on the Centellino's tangible effect, compared to an unaired test sample, in the areas of aroma, flavor and texture.

In none of these cases did I compare the Centellinoed wine with decanted wine, but that is not the point. When two people who like each other get together and one thing leads to another, one of them sometimes wishes he had taken a certain popular medication an hour or so previously. The couple must now spend an hour waiting, playing Scrabble, discussing current events, or what have you. I would be hard put to advise such a couple, unless they decide that wine is a better course. In that case, the Centellino obviates the need for advance planning, often the worst sort of mood killer. The Centillino requires no prescription, and is distributed in the US by Fiorino Italian Imports.

Verdict: A very handy device for those who cannot wait

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Wine needs just the right amount of oxygen at just the right time.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award

Centellino Wine Aerator

Sommelier Jeff Callahan shows how the Centellino is used to aerate wine.

Centellino Wine Aerator

The Centellino wine aerator

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