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Wine Aerators

From An Austrian Supper

How we tested

When you open a bottle of red wine, you can either wait the standard 10 to 30 minutes for it to “breathe,” or you can use a new device called a wine aerator. Held above a wine glass or inserted into a bottle, these devices are designed to expose the wine to air while you pour, speeding up their interaction, a process that can improve the flavor of wine.

We poured a 2005 Bordeaux through five brands of aerator to see if any could eliminate the bitter taste of young red wine. In a blind tasting, we compared the wine a glass at a time—one poured through an aerator, the other straight from the bottle. Tasters noticed a difference in the wine’s flavor and aroma, but some devices made a bigger difference than others.

What was happening? When wine is exposed to air, it can alter it for the better. The interaction of wine and air makes an impact on highly volatile chemicals such as sulfur compounds, which can produce a harsh taste, and free acetaldehyde, which can confer flatness in wine. Sulfur compounds can be detected at very low levels, in the range of parts per billion, and some of them react with oxygen to become less volatile substances with different odors. (There’s no evidence that aeration changes the level of tannins, which gives wine its astringency, because tannins are not volatile.)

Tasters unanimously agreed that one aerator stood out for markedly improving flavor and aroma, increasing fruitiness, opening up the wine’s bouquet, and smoothing harsh notes. The winner, which looks like a perforated cigarette holder covered in black rubber, disappears into the neck of the bottle, leaving only a stainless steel pouring spout visible. As you pour, air is drawn into the wine through a narrow tube enclosed within. For aerated wine without waiting, this product comes in handy.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*