There are three traditional reasons for decanting a bottle of wine: to aerate a younger wine, to raise the temperature of a bottle taken from a cold cellar, and to separate an older wine from its sediment. Sediment consists of suspended solids left over from fermentation, which have collected at the bottom of the bottle when it is turned upright.
For many years, decanting was something that people only saw in fancy restaurants when they (or others) ordered an older bottle of wine. Recently the process has become common, as more and more consumers are drinking current vintages of ultra-concentrated, tannin red wines that are badly in need of air.
Now we have a radical solution to the problem of aeration, something that is shaking the wine establishment to its foundations—hyperdecanting. The method is propagated by Nathan Myhrvold, author of Modernist Cuisine, an encyclopedic treatise on molecular cooking techniques. However, there’s nothing scientific or overly complex about Myhrvold’s way of decanting wine. He simply pours it into a blender and watches it froth for 30 to 60 seconds.
If you’re a wine purist, you’ve already run screaming from the room, but Myhrvold insists that hyperdecanting only improves the taste of wine. To back up his theory, he advises drinkers to decant half a bottle in the traditional way, pour the other half into a blender, and conduct a comparative taste test. After the bubbles subside, he insists that the hyperdecanted wine is superior.
Here’s the disturbing part, though: He claims that this method not only improves younger wines but older ones as well, including “a 1982 Chateau Margaux.” Presumably the ’82 has already been decanted in the traditional manner; if not, you’re likely to end up with a $1200 milkshake of wine and sediment.
Being a purist at heart, I’m not opposed to putting a straightjacket on Myhrvold, shooting him full of tranquilizers and transporting him to the nearest institution. On the other hand, he’s welcome to come over anytime and bring his own 1982 Chateau Margaux. I’ll dust off the blender, buy some paper umbrellas to use as wine glass garnish, and have some fun.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); for more information, go to amazon.com