To Decant or Not to Decant, That is the Question

Ok, you’re excited about going wine tasting in one of the hundreds of quality wineries in California. You arrive and you’re ready to sample some fine Pinot Noir or Cabs, but you are rather surprised to find that they’re pouring wines “2 years new”.

What’s this, you ask? You didn’t just fall off the vine! What happened to the “I will not touch wine before it’s time” mantra? You can blame it on the banks, tight small business loans these days, or the need for the wineries to produce more than just “fruit produce” – cash flow that is. It does cost a small fortune to efficiently run a winery, so you can’t put all the blame on them for the fact that wineries and their marketing gurus are releasing their wines too early. But there are ways that you can rectify these oversights.

But first, let’s reflect a moment and talk about the wines. When I finally acquired a taste for good wines, it was like really looking at a diamond in all its fiery perfection for the first time and understanding it’s much more than overpriced bling a person would size you up by.¬† What a good bottle of wine can do is just as inspiring, in that it brings out the subtle flavors of your favorite dishes while enhancing the wine at the same time. You start to pick out the “other flavors”; the nuances that make a real difference between an everyday table wine and a really good wine. There is a knack to choosing the right wine to complement your entree. I won’t get into the high and low acid/tannin levels here, but it’s fun stuff you should maybe research.

Now, let’s get back to the young wine dilemma. Let’s say you had a blast diligently tasting and selecting what you and your friends think where home-run wines at the wineries and you’re lugging back a couple cases, cringing when you ¬†realize just how much all of this just cost you. All the while the good people at the wineries were telling you that you really ought to “lay these bad boys down” for a couple more years. Right- hurry up and wait for 2 years? This could be done if you are lucky enough to have a cooled cellar or wine refrigerator (which I adamantly recommend). If you don’t, you should find a place that represents the coolest and darkest part of your house.

But still, waiting a couple years? The thought of just “checking in on your new babies” for this duration is going to drive you to drinking poor quality wines – and we can’t have any of that! There is a way to speed up the process of aging a bottle of wine; to soften the harsh tannins and smooth a wine more toward its potential: decant! The second you open a bottle of wine, you start the process of oxidization. We can accelerate the process by simply pouring the wine into a wide glass decanter. By exposing the young wine to an abundant amount of oxygen, you are speeding up the natural process and aging it right there. It is debated that one hour in a decanter equals one year of cellaring, two hours equals two years. Be careful not to let it stand for too long, as you could actually over-age your wine. If you are lucky to have a wine that has aged to its best potential already, then decant and pour right away. Remember not to use a decanter or “wine venturi” on old or peaked wines, as this will actually make them go flat.

Now after you pour from the decanter, swirling your wine in your glass will expose it to even more oxidation principles and let loose the vapors or “nose” in the process. A decanter not only helps unleash the hounds, but it is an outstanding presentation for your wine. Nothing is more enticing than the anticipation of watching a fine wine being poured into a beautiful hour glass shaped decanter. By the way, you can find many shapes and style decanters in any wine shop.

So there you go, a way of cheating the waiting game.

Patrick Hurley is a Wine Wholesaler and is president of the Pinot Noir Specific website “”

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