Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
So I’ve typically agreed with Matt Kramer that a decanter can do no wrong on red wines, and I pretty much always decant accordingly. But last week on two occasions, I was drinking wines—young, red, New World (both, um, Arizona, one a Syrah, one a blend of Italian grapes, but completely decent wines and not particularly delicate)—that lost quite a bit of their fruit, spice and luster in the decanter versus poured from the bottle, and this was within 20 minutes of decanting. What could be the cause of this? Something akin to the “don’t drink Burgundy from a Bordeaux glass” rule?
—Ace, Brooklyn, N.Y.
If we’re talking about decanting young red wines to aerate them and hope they become more expressive, then I’m generally in agreement with you and Kramer that decanting isn’t going to hurt a wine and might very much help it. Not everyone agrees, as decanting (and aeration) is a matter of personal preference and varies from bottle to bottle and from wine lover to wine lover. I have friends that decant every young red except for Burgundies and other Pinot Noir wines, which they don’t believe improve with decanting. To each their own.
I’ve experienced what you described, that a wine simply changes after decanting, and not necessarily for the better. I suspect that in these cases the wine is becoming more expressive, and we just don’t like what the wine is expressing. It could be that a flaw is becoming apparent, such as TCA—the pesky chemical compound (2,4,6-trichloroanisole) that is responsible for “corked” wines and results in musty notes and muted fruit flavors. These notes definitely become more pronounced over time. Or the wine may simply be not very good, or balanced, or to your liking, and the more time you spend with it, the more time you have to come to that conclusion.
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