Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Great Decanting Experiment – Wine #10

For our tenth wine we return to the Napa Valley and the other variety that has made this region famous, Cabernet Sauvignon. Paradigm Winery has been reputed to make one of the top 50 Cabernet based wines in Napa Valley. In the past it has been one wine that I have rated highly in blind tastings. This wine also has the distinction of having Heidi Peterson Barrett as its winemaker. Barrett has been the winemaker for Screaming Eagle, the pinnacle of cult Napa Cabernets. An impressive pedigree indeed!

Wine #10 2002 Paradigm Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa valley, California: ($24.99USD, 375ml), 14.8% alcohol.
One bottle was splash decanted and the other left unopen; both in the cellar at 56 degree F. After 2 and a half hours the second bottle was opened and the two wines poured randomly into three marked opaque glasses while I was out of the room.

Glass A: Dusty earth, charred, tarry notes over evident alcohol and black olives. Very soft entry with unexpected finesse on the palate, fine tannins but lacking a persistent finish.

Glass B: More richly flavored with stewed, charred flavors over coffee and black fruits. Softer tannins but otherwise as for glass A. More flavor carry than glass C.

Glass C: As for glass A with dusty earth, charred and tarry notes over black olives. Softer than glass B, but otherwise more like glass A. Not a lot of flavor carry, almost dead in the mouth.

Note: Dusty note blows off in the glass and is not evidence of a corked wine.

My opinion: Glass B is from the bottle, glasses A and C are from the decanter.
Reality: Glass B is from the decanter, glasses A and C contain wine from the bottle.

Conclusion: Well it only took 10 wines to find one that shows improvement with decanting. OK, you could argue that its less because some of the wines tested might never benefit from decanting, but as I have said before there will be no discrimination against any wine. What was questionable about this decanting test was the lack of varietal definition in the Paradigm even with aeration. Compared to a bottle of 2003 Whitehall Lane Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (14.2% alcohol) drunk a few days later, the Paradigm showed little of the freshness and fruit flavor that you might expect from a wine still in its youth. Still it will be interesting to source a few more splits (375 ml) of Napa Cabernet to see if any more benefit from decanting. My opinion? A simple no should suffice.

Score: Wines tested 10, Decanters 1, Non-decanters 2.

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