There are two reasons for decanting wine: separating the sediment from the wine (only needed for all wines that have sediment in the bottle, usually older wines) and letting the wine ‘breathe’ (oxygenation and outgassing; this may improve most wines but especially young red wines of which the tannins haven’t yet softened). Dutch wine connoisseurs use two different words to differentiate between these two purposes: decanting (decanteren) for separating the sediment and ‘carafing’ (karafferen) for letting the wine breathe.
The amazing book (well, actually set of books) “Modernist Cuisine” by Nathan Myhrvold et al. claims that using a blender to ‘hyperdecant’ wine is superior to the old-fashioned way of using a carafe. It is one of my favorite parts of the books so far — I haven’t read all of it yet but certainly will and I will definitely write more about Modernist Cuisine in this blog. I quote from page 4-343: “Perhaps the best part about hyperdecanting is the shocked reaction that you’ll get from old-fashioned wine ‘experts’ and connoisseurs when you pour wine into a blender at the table and frappé it into a froth. Their reaction alone makes the effort worthwhile! The second-best part is that, in blind tastings, the same shocked people tend to prefer hyperdecanted wine.”
I’ve tried hyperdecanting some wines myself over the last few weeks (including Médoc and Amarone della Valpolicella), and must say that I tend to agree with them. Even non-connoisseurs react shocked (probably because they don’t expect someone they think of as a connoisseur to ‘ruin’ a wine this way) and it does indeed have approximately the same effect as old-fashioned decanting, but much faster! And that is the best part not even mentioned in the book: hyperdecanting takes only a minute so you don’t have to plan ahead if you want to drink a tannic red wine that needs aeration. I’m already looking forward to the next time they serve me a pretentious red wine that is really too young and without aeration (like the Barolo 2006 I recently got served) and asking the waiter to take it into the kitchen and put it in a blender for me!
Here’s how I’ve done it (following the instructions in Modernist Cuisine):
Pour the wine into an ordinary kitchen blender and blend on the highest-power setting for 30 seconds or so.
Don’t be alarmed by the froth, which will dissipate quickly.
Taste and blend for 15-30 seconds more if needed. Pour the wine into glasses as usual.
It did wonders for this 2001 Pauillac.