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Dear Dr. Vinny,
The question I have is about age vs. decanting. I enjoy some age to my wine and would like to know if there is some way to correlate decanting time with age. Or does the taste become dissimilar between the two methods?
—Ed C., California
Aging a wine and decanting (or otherwise aerating) it are not interchangeable activities. Both can have similar results, to a point. Decanting can make a wine seem smoother and more integrated, and good wines that have aged well can also seem smoother and more integrated. There’s not much more of a conclusion you can make past that.
It may help to understand if you consider what’s physically happening to a wine when it’s decanted and while it’s aged. When a wine is decanted, it’s exposed to oxygen, and it starts to evaporate. While a wine is aging, it has only a minimal level of oxidation (assuming a proper seal), but some completely different things happen: phenolic compounds link together and drop out of suspension to become sediment, the color of the wine changes, its fruit flavors fade and secondary notes come into the foreground.
Part of what’s so fantastic about observing wines is seeing how they evolve—in the glass, in the decanter, in the cellar and as you move through life. It’s tempting to want to find shortcuts or figure out algorithms to explain the mysteries of how wine works, but it’s more efficient (and more enjoyable) to simply open a bottle and taste it.
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