I'd heard enough about the value of decanting certain wines to put a decanter on my wish list, though I was skeptical about how much of a difference it would make.Â Then a friend sent me a video from Wine Library TV, where host Gary Vaynerchuk is downright passionate as he extols the virtues of decanting wine.Â He insists that you are wasting your money if you don't decant a good bottle of wine, and that you can also salvage a mediocre one through decanting.
The basic idea is that the shape of the decanter allows the wine to breath more effectively than just leaving the bottle open, enabling the flavors to open up and further develop.Â The effect is similar to that of aging a wine, and makes the most sense for young, medim to full bodied red wines.Â The technique is pretty simple--pour the bottle of wine vigorously into the decanter, and let it sit there anywhere between 15 minutes and 5 hours.Â Decanting used to also be recommended for removing sediment from a wine, but modern wine making techniques only make this necessary for an old wine that's been aged a decade or more.
I set out to see for myself if this decanting business is truly an important part of wine appreciation that I'd been missing.Â I chose to experiment with the 2005 Chateau St. Martin De La Garrigue "Bronzinelle", a red wine from the Languedoc region of Southern France chosen by Food & Wine Importer of the year Kermit Lynch.Â The description I had made it sound like a complex wine that would benefit from aging--or possibly decanting.Â So here's how things unfolded:
4:10 p.m.Â I open the wine and pour most of it vigorously into the decanter.Â I pour myself a small taste to see what it's like un-decanted...very rough around the edges, almost a bit abrasive.Â At this point, it does not seem to be a wine I'd want to drink.
4:55 p.m.Â I pour another taste out of the decanter to sip as I make some chicken stew.Â 45 minutes of decanting has made a big difference.Â It's much softer, and I can start to pick up more flavors--jammy, currants, and spice are the dominant flavors.
5:45 p.m.Â The stew is simmering.Â The wine is decanting.Â Good smells waft through the house.Â This is going to be good.
6:30 p.m.Â We settle to the table, ready to tuck into the stew and the fully decanted wine.Â Mmm, "lush" is the first word that comes to mind to describe the wine at the stage.Â In addition to the flavors noted earlier, I also pick up a hint of vanilla now.Â Though the exposure to air has opened up the wine's fruity and earthy flavors, it still has good structure with its tannic backbone.Â Â A wonderful wine to enjoy with our rustic supper.Â Feels like we should be eating it in a bistro en Provence!Â A food and wine pairing like this can definitely conjure a strong sense of place.
To make sure this wasn't some fluke, soon after this experiment I broke out the decanter again, this time for a bottle of Hahn Meritage.Â The difference wasn't as dramatic, as this red was drinkable immediately.Â But after decanting for 45 minutes, the full flavor of the wine really came forth.Â
OK, I'm convinced!Â Since this experiment, pretty much every red other than a pinot noir spends some time in the decanter in our home before serving.Â I had a taste, and now I'm a believer!
A final message.Â I am not a professional wine taster, just an enthusiastic amateur.Â I do encourage you to try this experiment for yourself!
David Crowley, Gather Food Correspondent
David enjoys sharing good food and wine with family and friends.Â David writes about his wine explorations and discoveries in his column, "Wine Chat",Â a twice-monthly feature of Gather Essentials:Â Food.Â Â ByÂ day, David is the President and Founder of Social Capital Inc.