jamie goode's wine blog: Decanting wine

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Decanting wine

I admit it, I don't use my decanters all that often. But when I do, I wonder why I don't do it more often.

The science of decanting isn't all that clear-cut. While many experienced tasters, whose opinions I respect, are convinced of the benefits of decanting, I can't come up with many good scientific explanations for why it might enhance the character of a wine.

The received wisdom in the trade is that decanting 'opens up' the aromas of younger, more structured wines that are otherwise a little closed; that it changes the structure of tannic wines, making them more rounded.

And, from my experience, I'd agree. The problem for my science is that decanting often has an effect almost instantly, yet oxidation reactions in wine take much longer to have their effect. Decanting the wine would saturate it in oxygen, but this would take quite a while to work on wine components.

Perhaps some of the benefits of decanting are the effects it has on us, the tasters. After all, wine tasting is an interaction between the wine and the taster, with both contributing. If the act of decanting changes our expectation of the wine, then it may change the taste.

The wine in my decanter at the moment is Poliziano's Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2005, which I bought in Tuscany in June. It's a good wine: there's some stylish oak complenting the grippy Sangiovese fruit, and while it's pretty tannic, it's quite sophisticated, too. If anything, overnight in the decanter has improved the wine a bit (and 24 h will have been long enough for some oxidative changes, but in a young wine like this the oxygen will probably have been absorbed by the phenolic compounds).


At 9:46 PM, Blogger Martin said...

This post has been removed by the author.

At 9:49 PM, Blogger Martin said...

Perhaps it is more an effect on the free sulfur? As we know, sulfur can exaggerate the tannins and strip the delicate fruit aromatics. Free sulfur is highest in young wine and blowing them of like this would be almost instantaneous.

At 11:53 PM, Blogger Bob said...

I think the NY Times may have done a story recently about what decanting does.

At 12:08 AM, Anonymous Ian S said...

An amateur thought.

Whereas you say the wine doesn't chemically change that quickly, perhaps our impression/taste is affected by taking in more dissolved oxygen (well ok air) as we drink it?

A bit akin to taking a taste, or doing that aurally disturbing wine-tasters "slurp" (which after all seems to be about lifting the wine aromas on air to the flavour receptors).

Just a guess mind!



At 3:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great question. This subject is peppered with various learned and antidotal opinions. What is known for sure is that decanting or use of a venturi or use of a catylitic metallic device( pick your method)to age wine is utter C--P. There is a chain of reactions (continuing reactions from by products of upstream reactions ) which produce agreeable aged components in wine of which oxidation is only a beginning. The thought that amplifing the first reaction to prematurely and agreeably age wine is ridiculous.On a related subject I think (although I freely admit it is an opinion without data) that the palet/olifactories recalibrate to accomodate wine making the normally " wine has opened in the glass" another often misconception

At 10:44 AM, OpenID Rasmus said...

I agree with Martin about the significance of blowing off the sulfurs. Yes, the sulfurs can exaggerate the tannins, but it does so primarily because of a phenomenon that I call ”sensory interference” or cross-influence of senses; the fact that simultaneous perceptions from two or more different senses can influence and hence change one another.

In other words blowing off free sulfurs allows an expression of the fruity aromas which alters our overall perception of the wine's balance and following accessibility. Thinking about and working with decanting along these lines certainly works for me :-)


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