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Hyperdecanting as sacrilege wine behavior, Virginia Wine Month, and the $625 cookbook

Since 1988, October has been recognized as Virginia Wine Month.‘  As a fan and advocate of Virginia wine, each month is Virginia Wine Month for me, but October provides an opportunity for Virginia wineries, restaurants, other associated businesses, and even bloggers to shine a brighter spotlight on the wines from the Commonwealth.

My wife and I kicked-off Virginia Wine Month by opening a bottle of Virginia Cabernet Franc — one of the state’s most promising varietals, and the third most planted grape in the state with 282 acres under vine — and a wine experiment.

Our wine of choice to kick-off the month-long celebration of Virginia wine was the Mountfair 2009 Cabernet Franc ($20, 12.5% abv) tasted three ways, one of which included a new method of decanting wine called hyperdecanting (well, new to me).

Though I would love to take credit for being the originator of a term like ‘hyperdecanting,’ I was just introduced to this aggressive alternative to utilizing a ‘rather pathetic tool‘ like a normal decanter.  In the September 22 issue of the periodical formerly known as Business Week, Nathan Myrvhold, ex-Microsoft Chief Technology Officer and author of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking — a five-volume, 2,348 page cooking tomb priced at $625 — explains the practice of hyperdecanting.  Before you rush off to Riedel.com to order the newest crystal hypderdecanter, please note that hyperdecanting is also known as decanting wine in a blender.

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Though the practice of decanting wine in a blender seemed (seems) like wine sacrilege, I decided to give this a try because hypderdecanting, or hyper-oxygenating actually, does make logical sense.

To avoid any bias, Myryvhold suggests using a “triangle test,” which is a scientifically rigorous way to test for a perceptible difference between wine prepared two different ways.   Since I have a terminal case of multiple biases — I am partial to Virginia Cab Franc, and am a fan of Mountfair’s wines — I decided to keep this experiment simple with no blind tasting component or multiple tasters other than my wife.  Instead, I poured three glasses of the Mountfair 2009 Cab Franc — one straight from the bottle, the other from a regular decanter (decanted about an hour), and finally a glass from the blender.

To make this less-than-scientific, non-triangle test appear as scientific as reasonably possible without working too hard at it, I made every effort to ensure that one-third of the bottle was devoted to each of the three parts of the.

Glass #1 – From Bottle to Glass:  Dark purple in color, the aromas of this glass were muted at first with basic dark fruits and pepper, followed by notable oak component in the mouth.  At the risk of sounding like an aromatically dyslexic dolt, I’m noticing a trend in Virginia Cab Franc — a move to more concentrated dark fruits with less of the herbaceous (in a good way) and peppery components that I appreciate (vintage dependent, of course).

Glass #2 – From Decanter to Glass:  The glass poured from the decanter, after about an hour decanting, was alive with aromas of blackberry, plum, cedar, earth, hints of green vegetables, and still showing that oak on the palate, but less than the glass poured directly from the bottle.  Nate (I can’t imagine any of his team at MS calling him Nate) refers to decanting wine in a traditional decanter as a rather pathetic tool.  Not sure I fully agree with this, but sometimes really bright people try to overcomplicate simple things.

Glass #3 – From Blender to Glass: To carry out the blending portion of the experiment, I used our faux stainless steel, lowest-price-on-the-middle-shelf-at-Target, Black & Decker blender.   After a 60-second whirl in the Black & Decker, the glass poured directly from the blender was, well, weird.  The dark purple color tinted with a gray hue in the glass poured from the hyperdecanted glass.  This is what a glass of darker cab franc would like if a thin, slightly gray translucent film were floating on top of the wine.  The aromatics were muted and seemed off.  In the mouth, the wine was softer, missing some of the acidity and tannin present in the other two glasses.  I was expecting a more vibrant expression of this wine given the oxygenation in the blender.  Pathetic way to decant wine: 1.  Hyperdecanting for the sake of trying to be clever: 0.

How does this thing work again...

Fortunately we had two-thirds of non-hyperdecanted bottle left to enjoy.  For now, I plan to stick with the rather pedestrian practice of using a traditional decanter.  I may break out the blender the next time our wine group gets together for a more enthusiastic and rigorous test.

For those in search of a random wine experiment, conducting this test in a more controlled environment  — blind, with a couple different decanters, an aerator like the Wine Soiree, and a respectable blender — along with a group of wine friends would make for a fun evening.

Remember, October is Virginia wine month!  If you are able, please support the Virginia wine industry this month — pick up a bottle from your local shop, order a bottle while dinning at your favorite restaurant, or, if you are not within the confines of the Commonwealth, please consider ordering a bottle online.


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