Decanting wine in a blender: Is it worth it?
Don't blame me. Blame Nathan Myhrvold.
Last year, the chef and former Microsoft chief technology officer released "Modernist Cuisine at Home," (The Cooking Lab; $140; 456 pages) a scientific cooking tome that teaches intrepid home cooks to emulsify and sous vide in the comfort of their own kitchens.
In it, Myhrvold declares that the best way to decant even a prized or aged wine is to whip it with an immersion blender for 30 to 60 seconds. Myhrvold calls it hyperdecanting, and up until recently, even the thought made me shudder.
The ritual of decanting wine has been around since Roman times, when early sommeliers discovered that the best way to avoid sipping sludge was to pour the bottle's clean wine into another vessel, leaving the sediment behind.
Sediment isn't as much of an issue anymore, at least for today's average drinker, who tends to consume commercial wines that have been fined and filtered, or cleared of sediment.
Still, most experts agree that exposing wine to air before serving unleashes and improves its aromas and flavors. In the case of big or tight young reds, it can also mellow the tannins, making it taste like it has some age on it -- or cost more than you paid.
But strangling it in a blender? Isn't that harsh on those delicate 1,000-plus chemical compounds? Surprisingly, not everyone thinks so.
Tim Ferriss, Gourmand Award-winning author of "The Four-Hour Chef" swears by it and has probably served frothy claret to more than a few fellow angel investors.
Pine Ridge Vineyards winemaker and general manager Michael Beaulac hasn't tried hyperdecanting, but he's intrigued by it.
"Especially with our young Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon," he said in an email, "it might be a great way to allow our wines to show quickly."
Too messy, says my friend Alan Kropf, founder of Mutineer Magazine and Anchor Distilling's director of education, who tried hyperdecanting an "inexpensive syrah" a few years ago.
"All I did was splash red wine all over the kitchen," he says. "I have enough trouble keeping my decanters clean. I say, ‘Keep it simple.' "
But decanting the old-fashioned way is hardly simple. It's a one- to two-hour wait, and the decanter's hourglass shape, as Kropf notes, is a pain to wash.
Last week, I conducted my own experiment with a 750-milliliter bottle of current vintage Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon. I poured 250 milliliters into a Bordeaux stem and another 250 into a glass decanter and let them breathe for 30 minutes. Before recorking the remaining third, I took a sip of the wine.
At minute 29, I poured the remaining 250 milliliters into my Ninja blender, averted my eyes and blended on medium for 30 seconds. Then, I sipped and compared.
The aromas in the wineglass were still relatively closed. The hyperdecanted wine was an improvement, but the pink foam on top was distracting, reminding me more of lambic or Guinness than wine. It just felt wrong, like I'd shaken the soul out of the wine.
The decanted cabernet was the most open and alive and, given another half-hour, probably the standout. Makes sense, I suppose. It has the widest base, increasing the surface area of wine exposed to air.
I asked Tim Hanni, Master of Wine and author of "Why You Like the Wines You Like" (New Wine Fundamentals, $22, 246 pages), what he thought about all of this.
Decanting is a fun ritual, he says, and the blender certainly will aerate the heck out of the wine. But years of blind tastings comparing decanted and nondecanted wines have determined no preference. If anything, the freshly opened wine tends to come out on top. His conclusion?
"Whip up your cabernet if you like," he told me. "But my real advice? Give your wine mouth-to-mouth resuscitation."
Perhaps the best decanter is, indeed, your mouth.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.