A Decant Rant? -or- An Aeration Disputation? -or- A Breathe Seethe? -or- To Decant Or Not To Decant?

I suspect I’m chiming in on this a bit late, as the article ran on May 6th, but has anyone out there read this?

http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo-wineair6-2009may06,0,5231460.story

This is an article about decanting wine, and the effect aeration has (pr perhaps doesn’t have?) on how a wine tastes. It’s quite an interesting read, and given that we here at Ridge pretty regularly decant or double-decant our wines prior to serving them (unless preliminary tasting and/or past experience definitively mandates an alternate methodology), the conclusion of the article in particular was rather surprising.

For the bulk of it, the article proceeds in fairly informative fashion, offering some different perspectives on, and analysis of, what actually happens when a wine “aerates,” and why it’s important (or not?) for a wine to do so. (Included in this commentary is a fairly strong dismissal of the term “closed,” which I thought was rather noteworthy). The article taps a fairly heady assemblage of commentators, including Andrew Waterhouse, chairman of the Department of Viticulture and Oenology at UC Davis, Kenneth Fugelsang, associate professor of Oenology at Cal State Fresno, Karen MacNeil, faculty chair of the wine department at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus, and even Maximillian Riedel, of the famed glassware company.

If the parenthetical questions above didn’t clue you in to the fact that there’s a punch line to the article, there most certainly is a twist, and I was quite shocked to read it. I’ll spoil it for you (though I still encourage you to read the article), and tell you that a blind tasting was held, and the participants couldn’t tell the difference between wine straight out of the bottle, and wine that had been decanted for two hours!

As far as I’m concerned, I’m standing by Ridge’s practice of regular decanting or double-decanting prior to serving. Per our methodology in the tasting room for a weekend of business, we will double-decant three bottles each of 6 different wines, and taste test them all for appropriate pourability. We do this first thing in the morning, and we do the same for every single bottle we open over the course of the day. What this results in, among other things, is a staff who is on extremely familiar terms with a vast array of wines! Quite often, we’ll debate whether a wine is benefiting from decanting; if there is any dispute in this regard, we’ll experiment by, say, decanting two of the bottles, but not the third, and then watch the progress of all three to see how they develop. I can tell you with the utmost certainty decanting makes a difference.

I don’t know who was on that panel, but I’m absolutely jaw-dropped by the results. That said, not only is there no indication of who was on the panel, there is also no information about what wines were poured, or any other facts about the panel or the tasting itself. I’d love to know more about this test, and about similar tests like it; I just can’t believe no difference could be determined in a blind tasting between decanted wines and non-decanted wines!

Perhaps we should do our own taste test here?



Categories: Tasting Rooms, Viticultural Salmagundi

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