March 30, 2009


We laid out a step-by-step protocol for this experiment.

Open Bottle #1 early in the day.
Open Bottle #2 right before tasting.
Taste Bottle #1 against Bottle #2, blind.
Decant half of Bottle #2 into a standard decanter.
Pour other half into a Waring Blender and froth for 1 minute.
Taste decanted and "vigorously decanted" wines against Bottle #1, blind.

We used one of our favorite gateway ungrafteds for the test. The Root:1 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Root:1 series includes several wines, red and white. I've found them all to be terrific values. And while they are not "great" wines, they are certainly approachable, affordable examples of the positive attributes of wine produced from own-rooted vines.

I won't bore you with an account of every note for each individual taste because there wasn't much differentiation. There were subtle differences, but nothing experimentally exciting.

But there were two important take-aways:

1. Blending your wine isn't good for bouquet, but did surprisingly little damage otherwise (there's a 10 second time-lapse between each photo, just fyi).

2. Decanting for aeration produces about the same result as just opening the bottle and exposing the shoulder.

It's also worth noting than an hour after the experiment, I couldn't tell the difference between any of the wines.


Joseph said...

I've loved this experiment from the word blend.

Glen said...

Great experiment, I have wondered at the validity of decanting wine for quite a while. As you may have seen in the NYT a little while ago, the chair at UC Davis Department of Enology claims that decanting can only remove volatile sulfur compounds.

I have read the something similar in Emile Peynaud's "The Taste of Wine."

To test the idea that tannin is affected by decanting, I have added tannin to both water and neutral wine and then vigorously decanted (without a blender). I was unable to tell a difference between any of the test and controls samples. I came to the conclusion decanting didn't affect tannin. I never really thought decanting affected the flavor and so I believe it is usually unnecessary to decant wines.

I think I'll try again with blender.

Brooklynguy said...

you are completely out of your mind, in a good way.

Rob Bralow said...

I agree with the BrooklynGuy.

I love that you do these experiments, but for this one I think you might have missed something.

Forgive me if I am wrong, but is the Root 1 supposed to be decanted? I agree with you that it is a very approachable wine, but I think the reason you cannot tell a difference between them is because the root 1 does not change very much with the inclusion of air.

Just a thought... or is that too serious for these intense experiments... ;-)

Laboratory Chief said...

Cue Mad Scientist laugh.

Glen, I'm sending you a job offer in today's mail.

Rob, Good thought. You certainly don't need to decant the Root:1. But (uncue mad scientist laugh) I'm not going to put a young Giacosa Barolo into a blender. Still, I'm still pretty convinced that decanting is not a substitute for bottle age (which is what your question, I think, implies).

jjdeluxe said...

this is hilarious. do you think i will be OK with a crappy cuisinart?

Laboratory Chief said...

JJ, It's true, we are the New York Yankees of Oenology Labs. But you can do great work even without the high cost, hugely endowed gear we use here at RD.


David McDuff said...

Nice title, buddy. Will there be a second round with mature wine?

Laboratory Chief said...

McD, You get the footnote.

I have a couple mid-range Barolos in the cellar. Am considering repeating the experiment with them. We'll see.

Per Rob Bralow am also considering trying same with something newer and fancy. But I don't really drink new and fancy wines, so I'll need to do some research.