Decanting vs. Aging?

Is “How long should I decant this?” the
NEW “How long will this age?”

Don’t get me wrong … I think it’s great that consumers are paying more attention to massaging the wine a little before consumption, and in my book it’s always better to open a wine before it’s over the hill, rather than suffer the disappointment of the downslope. So this is a little tongue in cheek, food for thought, water on the brain …

But really, since everyone seems to be buying from incredibly limited allotments, what good does it do to open a really, really young wine for evaluation? You can’t buy any more, right? If we all “take one for the team” who’ll be left to fight the war? [berserker.gif]

And my third question is … does splash decanting a wine for 96 hours really mimic a wine’s development in the bottle? I mean, how do you get the slow, steady progression of VA and brett and loss of fruit without patience?

And my fourth question is … doesn’t there seem to be just a little machismo mamba surrounding the whole topic lately? Like, whose wines have the got the “stuffing” to go the distance for three days? Or six? Or ten? If you can’t evaluate a wine after 24 hours or so, should you be allowed to decant wine at all? There ought to be a license …

  1. I dunno - seems more like “How long before serving should I open this?” is the
    NEW “How long will this age?”

  2. IMHO it’s less about “evaluation” and more about immediate gratification – and some proof to one’s self that it was a wise/savvy buy

  3. Uhhh…no. But, storing it for 2+ years at 75 degrees might

  4. Again, I think it’s less about the “evaluation,” and more about just seeing how the thing evolves - almost from an experimental standpoint. I haven’t seen that much of this, but it sounds more like “hey, let’s cover this anthill, and see how long it takes them to dig out.”

Nope. Wine in bottle is in an anoxic environment, decanting puts it in an oxygen rich environment. The chemical reactions are totally different.

Sorry, no again. Chemical reaction kinetics are temperature dependent. You will get very different end products at 55F as compared to 75F.

I always figured that “accelerated aging” would accomplish the same thing. I gotta tell you, Jeff, this is a bit of a buzz-kill. How about if I jack up the temperature more?

Sorry about the buzz kill, go drink some 2007 CdPs which are pushing 18% alcohol [rofl.gif]

The higher the temp, the faster some reactions will go, most reactions, but some will actually not occur because the starting chemical components were used up by more kinetically favorable reactions.

I could try to outline with some simple non-specific examples if people want to get that geeky.

Ditto if you cool your cellar to 40F. Many reactions will slow or stop completely because there isn’t enough energy (temperature) to get reactions over the kinetic hill.

Or you can go with a Clef du Vin [shock.gif] [laughingneqw.gif]

My favorite purchase quantity is at least 4 bottles. 1 to try early to peg later drinking windows. That leaves two for a dinner party and one for a party of two.

When I hear a wine was better on Day 2, I know to hide that puppy at the back of the cellar and wait. If it’s taking 24 hours, it’s too young. In fact, IMO, if it’s taking more than an hour in the decanter, it’s too young. Your mileage may vary, but I prefer to cellar. Now if I have a good stock of a wine, I’ll open them at all ages.

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Spoken like a man with real experience.

I never meant to say or imply that a wine won’t be “better” on day 2. It will change and you will thus have a different taste experience.

I merely wanted to say that oxygenation in the decanter is a totally different chemical process than closed bottle aging.

I’m with Randy. I’ve always followed the maxim “If it takes more than an hour in a decanter, you opened it too soon.” Now of course there’s plenty of exceptions to that like some Oregon Pinots can show better with a 4 hour decant, really old Barolo show better with a slow-O for several hours, etc…

Being young and still new to the game, I’ll usually open a bottle early in its development just so I can start understanding what ‘development’ is. Part of the fun with fermented grape juice is getting to ‘know’ a wine - which is why I’ll always prefer nursing a single bottle for three or four hours, instead of going to a big tasting where I just get a small taste of several different wines. The experience of how a wine changes is what’s appealing to me, so in the same vein, experiencing a wine as it develops over several years is also appealing - and much more so than just drinking the wine at ‘peak maturity’.

Make sense?? Who knows, my POV may completely change once I have a mature cellar at my disposal… [shrug.gif]

Not only does it make sense, that is, in my opinion, how to properly taste wine. Around 95% of my notes are based on opening bottles (not necessarily “early in its development”) and sharing them with, usually, 3-6 people over the course of a long lunch or dinner (I prefer dinners) to see how they evolve over a few hours.

While I do attend “bigger” tastings like Vinexpo, those events comprise only 5% of my wine events and that’s where I taste young wines.

I am no the wine police. Someone can open mtheir wines whenever they want to. And in fact, I often buy 4 bottles of a given wine with the thought to kill one early just to see what it is like.

However, I do agree that opening a wine for a crazy hour long decant before drinking seems silly. If the wine is that young, why would you drink it? At the same time, I don’t see how a wine open for a day or two is not oxidized. In reading some of these TN’s, I am convinced that there are a lot of wine drinkers who like oxidized wine. Let’s face it, the first character of an oxidized wine is that it gets a candied cherry aroma. Whenever I read “Red fruit” in a TN from someone who is decanting a wine for a day or two, I know that they are drinking, and liking, oxidized wines.

Personally, I rarely lets my wines breathe. Pop and pour for most wines is the way to go. There are exceptions, but I do not see a need to reflexively decant everything you open. That makes no sense to me.

Following the wine while it evolves in the glass is what makes wine drinking enjoyable. Dcanting for hours takes away that fun. It is like going ot hear Beethoven’s Ninth, and coming in only for the end “Ode to Joy” and then saying what a great symphony. That makes no sense to me at all. [shrug.gif]

I agree. Decanting is no substitute for proper ageing.

Following the wine while it evolves in the glass is what makes wine drinking enjoyable. Dcanting for hours takes away that fun. It is like going ot hear Beethoven’s Ninth, and coming in only for the end “Ode to Joy” and then saying what a great symphony. That makes no sense to me at all. > [shrug.gif]

We should together drink sometime.


Somehow this thread drifted away from “is decanting a substitute for aging” to “will my wine taste better if i decant”.

I think that question, Jeff, was answered. To state it a different way, decanting the wine can soften the tannins, and can change the aromas (perhaps bring them out more, perhaps hide them more by shutting the wine down) but age it as far as talking about developing mature characteristics? No.

But I think that Mary’s initial observation is 100% dead on: she has noticed that 'how long should I decant" is used as a substitute for aging the wine. My point was that I feel that this whole notion of letting a wine sit unattended and unloved in a decanter is silly, IMHO, and misses the whole point of wine drinking. There are exceptions, of course, but it is that reflexive notion that a wine MUST be decanted that Mary remarked on.

Rioja has always made the most conclusive case to me for the aging vs. decanting argument.
When I go to a bottle that has been resting in my cellar for 5, 8, or 10 years (Torre Muga is my favorite example), as opposed to that bottle that I did pop and pour, the dramatic revelation of aromatics alone makes for an open and shut case.

I have not had many, or perhaps any, examples of aged Rioja, so I do not know what they are like. I know that young wines can seem awfully oaky. Does that typically intergrate with age?

I wasn’t the one addressed, but, I’d say it depends which Rioja you have, from what year and how old it is - e.g., '89 Marqués de Murrieta Castillo Ygay (in magnum) in 2005 wasn’t terribly woody, but the '98 version of the wine (Grand Reserva Especial) in 2008 & 2009 was extremely woody - so much so that, in my opinion, this will not change that much in another 5 years and up. Only time will really tell though.