We put the smarmy gimmick of wine aeration to a blind test … because we wanted to drink today.


Some Hollywoodite snobs gather in the backyard of a house owned by Monty Python’s John Cleese. Paunchy husbands and wives with pearl calves. Their spring fashion might cost more than your car. And they’re nosing glasses of wine, which of course makes it all worse. 

However, these people are being pranked. With every swirl and swallow of vintage, their elite tastes are being lampooned. In order to make its point about the absurdity of wine culture, John Cleese’s now classic doc, "Wine for the Confused," lets us watch as some of these wine aficionados guess outrageous prices for what is really just a $5 bottle. 

It’s a good jab. Wine might be the only intoxicant out there that promises to elevate one’s class status. The more elaborately it’s served, the more lushly it’s described, the better. And it might be because of all this grandstanding that the more blue-collar you are, the more suspicion you harbor for the stuff. That’s why the Cleese bit is so great. It’s validating and populist. Wine, says Cleese, should be enjoyed simply for what it is. 

It’s a sentiment that makes all these fancy wine aerators (you’ve seen these things; they’re advertised in Harpers, mmmyeeess) such a patently asinine addition to the experience. But here in our first trial, we decide to try one out anyway.

It’s fancy because more things!

From the darkest corner of one of our editor’s closets, the inevitable wedding gift is retrieved. The side of the box says, "Wine Enthusiast" and it's supposed to give the body of christ a fuller flavor by oxygenating it. We could parrot all the advertisements for you, but, as laymen, we only care if it tastes better. So, like Cleese, we decide to rig up a blind test. 

One wine. We pour a few glasses. And, blindfolded, we begin (no hanky-panky, promise). 

You might claim we’re not qualified for this, that our taste isn’t refined enough to detect the difference. But then who’s this for? The super-refined? Don’t kid yourself. They sell these at Bed, Bath & Beyond. And, just like Cleese noted, “refined” itself is a dubious thing.

We swig. 

Different orders. All random … look, if you’ve read this whole piece you should feel no suspense for the answer. We wish we could surprise ourselves, but it’s a wash. Nada. In fact, we guess wrong/right practically 50/50. 

For us, this gizmo is just more window-dressing. Another filter between you and the simple enjoyment of the thing. As Cleese said, don’t put on airs. Wine’s good, so drink it.

– by Paul French