For years, I believed that only very old, full-bodied wines needed to be decanted. Recently, a friend, Peggy McDermott, let me know that it never hurts to decant any red wine. Sure enough, I googled how long to decant wines and found these decanting durations on WineFolly.com:
- Zinfandel: 30 minutes
- Pinot Noir: 30 minutes
- Malbec: 1 hour
- Grenache/Garnacha Blend: 1 hour
- Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot: 2 hours
- Petite Sirah: 2 hours
- Tempranillo: 2 hours
- Sangiovese: 2 hours
- Vintage Port & Madeira: 2 hours
- Mourvèdre/Monastrell 2–3 hours
- Dão and Douro Reds: 2–3 hours
- Syrah/Shiraz: 2–3 hours
- Nebbiolo 3+ hours
So for my 57th birthday, I decided to get myself a decanter. Since I am an Amazon Prime member, I got a Riedel Decanters Black Tie delivered with free shipping. It arrived a few days early, but I decided to wait until my real birthday before using it. I also decided to conduct a test to see if decanting really makes a difference.
I had never used a decanter before. Even though the decanter is kind of shaped like an oil can, you add the wine and serve the wine from the large opening at the top. The opening at the narrow tip is only for air circulation. The decanter does not come with serving instructions. :-)
Rock Wall's Jesse's Vineyard Zinfandel is my favorite wine. We drink it regularly. It's our go-to wine. I had a bottle of the 2013 vintage on hand. The Rock Wall Wines website describes Jesse's Vineyard as: "Toasty marshmallow, black tea, blackberry, and milk chocolate jump from the glass followed by flavors of ripe cherry pie, pipe tobacco, menthol, and a dusty cocoa finish…indicative of essential Contra Costa flavors."
I poured half of the bottle in the decanter and left the remaining half in the bottle with a stopper in place.
After decanting, I let the wine sit for 30 minutes. I then had my wife, Sheryl, pour me two glasses but not tell me which was which. I tasted both.
When I taste wine, I pay attention to that initial taste, how it feels in my mouth, and how it finishes. When tasting both glasses, they were identical to me except for the finish. One had a less biting finish, seeming more fruit forward. I suggested to Sheryl that the more fruity-finish one was the decanted one. I was correct.
From this sample size of one, so far I can surmise that decanting does make a difference. Whether that is good or bad is a matter of taste.
Aeration is alive in the lab.