Wednesday, March 16, 2005

As I recover from my surgery a little bit of idle reading has me rediscovering the following quotations.

“Only bottles which have a deposit need to be decanted.”

“If it is necessary to decant, it should be done at the last moment, just before sitting down or just before serving, never in advance.”

“Only wines suffering from some fault (for example, a lack of cleanness on the nose, the presence of some gas, a little thinness in constitution) warrant decanting sufficiently in advance to allow for plenty of contact with air.”

Who said this? The same person who wrote “I have carried out dozens of controlled decanting experiments on wines of all ages and all origins. The wines were either handled under inert gas so as to avoid any influence from oxygen, or, alternatively, I varied the amount of dissolved oxygen and the length of contact with air.” Hmmm, that might just qualify him as someone who knows more about decanting wine than most. Who is he? The author is the late Emile Peynaud and the quotes are from his book “The Taste of Wine”. Peynaud first published his book in 1980 and then published a revised second edition (from which I have quoted) in 1996.

Now all of us know that wine will evolve and change over time. Just let wine sit in your glass for 15-30 minutes and it will change in aroma, longer, say several hours, and the actual feel of the wine in your mouth may change. I experienced this recently with Penfold's 2002 Bin 389. Well wine is a living thing. Isn’t it? I read a bit more of Peynaud. He related an anecdote. A 1962 Médoc Cru had been decanted “almost four hours” before lunch. During the lunch “everyone praised the virtues of letting wines breathe”, except Peynaud. He asked that unopened bottles of the same wine be opened and a comparison be made. “The strong, estery bouquet of the undecanted wine filled the glasses with a floral, truffle-like refinement, while the other appeared totally faded by comparison. On the palate the undecanted wine was livelier, fresher, less thick but also less fleshy. Everyone agreed that decanting had made the wine lose finesse and elegance though it had made it seem fuller. It had made a lively and refined wine seem rather common and lackluster.”

I wonder if this experiment has ever been tried with recent vintages of Aussie shiraz?

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