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Tom V

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Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Tom V » Mon May 20, 2013 1:10 pm

OK I know everyone's perceptions are different etc, etc., but isn't it possible that it's become a bit ridiculous when the default decision for lots of folks seems to be to open a wine and let it sit around for hours or days and then drink it? I'm expecting any day to read a tasting note on cellar tracker that proclaims: " opened and decanted on October 30th consumed with Christmas diner and boy was this wine singing!, recommend a long decant or 75 years in a cool cellar"

Interesting cellar tracker notes on the '09 Rhys Santa Cruz Moutains Pinot Noir from 2 weeks apart:

Tasting Note #1
"Double decanted back into bottle for ten hours, then decanted for 30 minutes prior to drinking. Tight and mostly closed down. Weak nose and strong vein of minerals on palate with faint dark berries in background"

Tasting Note #2
"This bottle - the first I've opened - was emphatically not in a dumb phase. Aromatically bold from the moment of cork liftoff, it was firing on all cylinders for the first sip 30 min later. Loads of dark berry and black cherry fruit with some spice )stems?) and a bit of earth."

My money's on the likelihood that the nose and berries died of exposure in the first instance!
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Victorwine » Mon May 20, 2013 2:00 pm

Tom wrote,
My money's on the likelihood that the nose and berries died of exposure in the first instance!

My experience says otherwise, “deep breathing” could bring the fruit forward. I myself immediately after opening a bottle of wine take a deep “sniff” to smell the wine and sip to taste the wine. If I feel it could benefit from decanting I would do it but if not I would just let the bottle sit there for about an hour or 45 minutes with the cork loosely put back into place before dinner. (It’s like leaving fruit on the kitchen counter to “ripen” some more).

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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Tom V » Mon May 20, 2013 2:18 pm

Victorwine wrote:Tom wrote,
My money's on the likelihood that the nose and berries died of exposure in the first instance!

My experience says otherwise, “deep breathing” could bring the fruit forward. I myself immediately after opening a bottle of wine take a deep “sniff” to smell the wine and sip to taste the wine. If I feel it could benefit from decanting I would do it but if not I would just let the bottle sit there for about an hour or 45 minutes with the cork loosely put back into place before dinner. (It’s like leaving fruit on the kitchen counter to “ripen” some more).

Salute


Don't get me wrong Victorwine, I certainly believe in breathing and often do as you say. I just think that the breathing thing has become a two headed monster and that it sends a distorted signal to those who are new to the "hobby". I further believe that there are probably more wines that sacrifice their best qualities to a too long decant than the other way around. Maybe I just prefer my wines with a bit more of an edge. The majority of wines don't need to be extensively aged, sort of follows that the majority of wines don't need to be aggressively breathed, no?
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Strawman?

by Rahsaan » Mon May 20, 2013 3:17 pm

Tom V wrote:The majority of wines don't need to be extensively aged, sort of follows that the majority of wines don't need to be aggressively breathed, no?


Sure it depends on the wine, but where is the evidence of all these newbies sitting around letting their 2 Buck Chuck decant for 7 hours prior to hamburger dinner?
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Re: Strawman?

by Kelly Young » Mon May 20, 2013 3:21 pm

Rahsaan wrote:
Tom V wrote:The majority of wines don't need to be extensively aged, sort of follows that the majority of wines don't need to be aggressively breathed, no?


Sure it depends on the wine, but where is the evidence of all these newbies sitting around letting their 2 Buck Chuck decant for 7 hours prior to hamburger dinner?


I know it's ridiculous innit?

I only let 2 Buck Chuck breathe for 5 hours max.
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Re: Strawman?

by Tom V » Mon May 20, 2013 4:21 pm

Rahsaan wrote:
Tom V wrote:The majority of wines don't need to be extensively aged, sort of follows that the majority of wines don't need to be aggressively breathed, no?


Sure it depends on the wine, but where is the evidence of all these newbies sitting around letting their 2 Buck Chuck decant for 7 hours prior to hamburger dinner?


Cellar tracker is loaded with tales of Olympian breathing events for everything from Beaujolais nouveau to Retsina (my personal favorite 10 hour breather). :wink:
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Mark Lipton » Mon May 20, 2013 5:19 pm

I plan on keeping breathing for as long as possible. :D

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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Brian Gilp » Mon May 20, 2013 8:46 pm

Some 20 years ago I took a wine appreciation course and the instructor (Richard Vine) stated that there had been studies where tasters were provided two samples of a number of wines; one decanted (not sure of the length of time) and the other PnP and by far the PnP wines were preferred. Wish I knew where to find the results of those studies. Still to this day I rarely decant a wine. Maybe 5-6 a year.
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Craig Winchell » Mon May 20, 2013 8:54 pm

I'm not of the "breathing" school, unless the wine had volatile defects which will likely blow away. In that case, it's just a matter of salvage. I don't own any apparatus, venturi or otherwise. On the other hand, modest swirling in glass is certainly reasonable.
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Mike Pollard » Mon May 20, 2013 9:31 pm

In my experience the effects of breathing can be dependent upon the individual. When I have done triangulation tests using pop-and-pour versus 2 hours of decanting I find only a minority of the wines tested improve to my palate. On the other hand the husband of a cousin has in several instances favored a decanted wine when I have favored the pop-and-pour wine.

Just as an FYI here is a link to a talk by Andrew Waterhouse of UC Davis on the "Effect of Wine Oxidation on Flavor Evolution".

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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Marco Raimondi » Mon May 20, 2013 10:17 pm

I remember my trips (20+ years ago) to Burgundy; in restaurants, the wines were opened shortly before serving, and NEVER decanted; rather, the bottle was placed gently in a pouring-cradle. Granted, the wines were all close to mature (7-15 years from vintage) and it was very, very nice to follow the wines as they opened and evolved through a meal/evening.

But, not all wines are the same; lean, taut, and tannic young esp. Bordeaux or Langhe Nebbiolos (for example) really need a nice aeration and benefit from decanting, IMO; a very few of the well-kept older ones do too.
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Richard Fadeley » Mon May 20, 2013 10:35 pm

This may not be what you are looking for, but I teach wine classes and also have a day job, so I cannot decant the wine a few hours before class. I routinely decant most of the reds the night before and give them 30-60 minutes of air, then back into the bottle. They consistently perform very well. In my opinion if a wine cannot stand an hour decant you probably don't need to be fooling with it. Also important to include time to give the wine a slight chill, maybe bring it down 5 or 7 degrees. IMO this is as important as the decant. Even with a decant the wine will still "open-up" in the glass, but probably a lot sooner than otherwise. The decant if particularly important with Burgundy and Bordeaux and it is fun to watch a wine as it matures and need a lesser or even no decant. But all this depends on individual preference and personal experience with a particular wine. To each his own.
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Sam Platt » Tue May 21, 2013 9:40 am

I rarely run into a red wine that doesn't benefit from time in air, whether in a decanter or my glass. When I have the time to do so I will usually double decant the wine an hour or two before drinking. We usually decant white Burgs and Sauternes as well.
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Mark Lipton » Tue May 21, 2013 2:27 pm

In all seriousness now, I think that people's views on this subject are inevitably tied to their sensitivity to a number of qualities. Since I prize tertiary aromas in wine, I like to age my wines extensively (more on this in a moment). When I get a young red wine in a restaurant (because, after all, that's all there is on most lists), I will often have it decanted to soften it and open it up. At home, I will decant a wine that I think may be closed down or a bottle that I find reductive on opening. I find that most older wines do benefit from at least a bit of airing and rarely are hurt. However, many other people of my acquaintance value the fruit more and/or are less sensitive to reductive aromas or tannins. They will find much less benefit from decanting than I do.

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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Dale Williams » Tue May 21, 2013 5:36 pm

It's certainly possible to let a wine breathe too much. I'd venture however I've probably had more wines that I wished had gotten more air time than I wished had less.

That said, in general unless I have a clear knowledge or opinion that a wine is young/tannic/tight (a serious 2000 Bordeaux, a Dunn, a young traditional Barolo) and needs airtime, or that a wine needs to be decanted for sediment, my default for dinner at home is to open probably a half hour before dinner. I generally take a sip, and if I decide it needs decanting for oxygen I do then. But most nights even if a bit tight I just pour and follow progress through night.

The longer I drink wine, the less I believe the idea that older wines are going to fall apart in a few minutes. The people I respect most all almost always double decant older bottles before bringing to a dinner(disturbed sediment is no fun, and can particularly harm old Nebbiolo) , and then they often show best at end of dinner. I've heard the "Burgundians only pop and pour", but someone should tell Jacques Lardiere, both times I've been at dinner with him he has opened all bottles in advance, and decanted some/most.
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Victorwine » Tue May 21, 2013 8:48 pm

Just the other night my niece at her engagement announcement dinner handed me a glass of red wine with a “frothy head”. Excitingly (with lots of hand waving), I asked what the heck did you do to this wine? Calmly she explained a technique called “hyper-decanting” (age a wine 5 years in just seconds by placing the wine in a Bullet blender). Just shook my head, 18 years of home winemaking/ evaluating fermenting wine and young wine samples and degassing them using thermal baths or stirring plates, never did I think of using a blender,

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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Steve Slatcher » Mon May 27, 2013 6:15 am

Brian Gilp wrote:Some 20 years ago I took a wine appreciation course and the instructor (Richard Vine) stated that there had been studies where tasters were provided two samples of a number of wines; one decanted (not sure of the length of time) and the other PnP and by far the PnP wines were preferred. Wish I knew where to find the results of those studies. Still to this day I rarely decant a wine. Maybe 5-6 a year.

Peynaud is of the opinion that it is only faulty wines that need to be exposed to air before drinking. See his book "The Taste of Wine". That opinion is based on "dozens of controlled expriment" he carried out and "resulting conlusions are those given in our Traité d'Oenologie", presumably a Bordeaux University journal. That is the closest I have found to a reference. Jancis Robinson has written similar things, perhaps following Peynaud.

I tend to agree with them. I have noticed that mild reductive notes can be dealt with by a vigourous double-decant, but that is about it. I have never noticed tannins soften with a long time in an open bottle. Sure, the wine changes, but generally towards oxidation IMO. Some might like that, but I don't. All just my opinion/view of course - I'd just encourage others who are not sure to find out for themselves.

In practice, I usually PnP whites, and decant reds shortly (for convenience maybe an hour or so) before eating. If the red is old the decant removes sediment, and if it is young there may be sediment too and it might help with any reduction.
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Mike_F » Mon May 27, 2013 10:58 am

Victorwine wrote:Just the other night my niece at her engagement announcement dinner handed me a glass of red wine with a “frothy head”. Excitingly (with lots of hand waving), I asked what the heck did you do to this wine? Calmly she explained a technique called “hyper-decanting” (age a wine 5 years in just seconds by placing the wine in a Bullet blender). Just shook my head, 18 years of home winemaking/ evaluating fermenting wine and young wine samples and degassing them using thermal baths or stirring plates, never did I think of using a blender


Your niece and her engagement party - obviously she can do no wrong, but all I can say is that I devoutly hope that none of my kids or younger relatives ever put me through such a test of character...
Of course we must be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.”
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Victorwine » Mon May 27, 2013 3:50 pm

Mike,
Al I have to say is Thank God it wasn’t one of our homemade wines it was a Coppola wine from California.

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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Mike Pollard » Mon Jun 03, 2013 10:07 pm

Steve Slatcher wrote:Peynaud is of the opinion that it is only faulty wines that need to be exposed to air before drinking. See his book "The Taste of Wine". That opinion is based on "dozens of controlled expriment" he carried out and "resulting conlusions are those given in our Traité d'Oenologie", presumably a Bordeaux University journal. That is the closest I have found to a reference. Jancis Robinson has written similar things, perhaps following Peynaud.

I tend to agree with them. I have noticed that mild reductive notes can be dealt with by a vigourous double-decant, but that is about it. I have never noticed tannins soften with a long time in an open bottle. Sure, the wine changes, but generally towards oxidation IMO. Some might like that, but I don't. All just my opinion/view of course - I'd just encourage others who are not sure to find out for themselves.

In practice, I usually PnP whites, and decant reds shortly (for convenience maybe an hour or so) before eating. If the red is old the decant removes sediment, and if it is young there may be sediment too and it might help with any reduction.


Sage advice.
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Bill Spohn » Tue Jun 04, 2013 12:39 pm

Steve Slatcher wrote:Peynaud is of the opinion that it is only faulty wines that need to be exposed to air before drinking. See his book "The Taste of Wine". That opinion is based on "dozens of controlled expriment" he carried out and "resulting conlusions are those given in our Traité d'Oenologie", presumably a Bordeaux University journal. That is the closest I have found to a reference. Jancis Robinson has written similar things, perhaps following Peynaud.


I'll call BS on that. While it is clearly a mistake to early decant old wines that may crash while waiting to be drunk in the decanter, there are many wines for which decanting for airing is mandatory, not optional, and I don't just mean vintage Port. To say that a Barolo is 'faulty' because it doesn't show best the second it pours from the bottle is ridiculous, even if Peynaud said it (I haven't read the original treatise, so don't know if his statement was intended to apply to Bordeaux only).

Here is my most recent example.

A magnum of 1996 Pesquera had one bottle removed several hours before tasting, and the other bottle in the magnum was immediately sealed up again in a single bottle to prevent undue airing. The results were very interesting and I defy anyone to identify them as the same wine from the same bottle - they showed totally differently and the one that was decanted and aired was far superior. Ten experienced tasters, tasting blind, had no clue the wines were in any way related, much less from the same bottle.

1996 Pequera – the first stage of an interesting experiment that I’ll explain fully later. Sweet briary nose with some blackberry and tobacco, well developed wine, tasty with a medium long sweet finish with good acidity. About what I’d expect – I am slowly working my way through a case of this wine.

1996 Pesquera – yes, they had opened a magnum, decanted half and then put the balance in a normal size corked bottle, and it was a totally different wine. This one showed a slightly metallic nose, was lighter weight in the mouth, and had a medium length finish with enhanced tannins. First half of the bottle had 4 hours air; second half had maybe 30 minutes.
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Mike Pollard » Tue Jun 04, 2013 8:39 pm

Bill Spohn wrote:
Steve Slatcher wrote:Peynaud is of the opinion that it is only faulty wines that need to be exposed to air before drinking. See his book "The Taste of Wine". That opinion is based on "dozens of controlled expriment" he carried out and "resulting conlusions are those given in our Traité d'Oenologie", presumably a Bordeaux University journal. That is the closest I have found to a reference. Jancis Robinson has written similar things, perhaps following Peynaud.


I'll call BS on that. While it is clearly a mistake to early decant old wines that may crash while waiting to be drunk in the decanter, there are many wines for which decanting for airing is mandatory, not optional, and I don't just mean vintage Port. To say that a Barolo is 'faulty' because it doesn't show best the second it pours from the bottle is ridiculous, even if Peynaud said it (I haven't read the original treatise, so don't know if his statement was intended to apply to Bordeaux only).

Here is my most recent example.

A magnum of 1996 Pesquera had one bottle removed several hours before tasting, and the other bottle in the magnum was immediately sealed up again in a single bottle to prevent undue airing. The results were very interesting and I defy anyone to identify them as the same wine from the same bottle - they showed totally differently and the one that was decanted and aired was far superior. Ten experienced tasters, tasting blind, had no clue the wines were in any way related, much less from the same bottle.

1996 Pequera – the first stage of an interesting experiment that I’ll explain fully later. Sweet briary nose with some blackberry and tobacco, well developed wine, tasty with a medium long sweet finish with good acidity. About what I’d expect – I am slowly working my way through a case of this wine.

1996 Pesquera – yes, they had opened a magnum, decanted half and then put the balance in a normal size corked bottle, and it was a totally different wine. This one showed a slightly metallic nose, was lighter weight in the mouth, and had a medium length finish with enhanced tannins. First half of the bottle had 4 hours air; second half had maybe 30 minutes.



Sorry but have to call BS on this. An N of 1 versus a career in wine science is simply not convincing. In any case its almost certain that Peynaud, like any reasonable wino, would not have said that all wines are not affected by decanting just that his experience points to the most obvious effect being with faulty wines. I'm sure we have all experienced wines changing over time either in bottle, decanter or glass; the latter being the situation I see most change probably because I swirl the glass a lot which would lead to much faster loss of the more volatile components.

It should also be pointed out that the example given above is not a serious test of the effect of decanting. If anyone is really serious about seeing if they can identify decanted versus pop-and-pour they need to do it blind, as a triangualation test and without things like food etc. Its really not that hard to do. I've put 13 wines through this and only 1 was improved by decanting (2002 Paradigm Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa valley), 4 were not (including a 2001 Paolo Scavino Barolo tasted in 2007, so there is my N=1!) and the remainder could not be distinguised as having any changes.

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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Dave C » Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:04 pm

For the quality (price) of wines that I drink - a simple openning of the wine a good hour before drinking coupled with the pouring out of say half a glass to create a larger surface area within the bottle - is all that is needed.

Let's face it 90% of wines produced today are ready to drink today.

Once you are regularly openning wines in the $50 and above bracket - then these decanting options make reasonable sense.

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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

by Mark Lipton » Wed Jun 05, 2013 12:45 am

Mike Pollard wrote:Sorry but have to call BS on this. An N of 1 versus a career in wine science is simply not convincing. In any case its almost certain that Peynaud, like any reasonable wino, would not have said that all wines are not affected by decanting just that his experience points to the most obvious effect being with faulty wines. I'm sure we have all experienced wines changing over time either in bottle, decanter or glass; the latter being the situation I see most change probably because I swirl the glass a lot which would lead to much faster loss of the more volatile components.

It should also be pointed out that the example given above is not a serious test of the effect of decanting. If anyone is really serious about seeing if they can identify decanted versus pop-and-pour they need to do it blind, as a triangualation test and without things like food etc. Its really not that hard to do. I've put 13 wines through this and only 1 was improved by decanting (2002 Paradigm Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa valley), 4 were not (including a 2001 Paolo Scavino Barolo tasted in 2007, so there is my N=1!) and the remainder could not be distinguised as having any changes.


Mike, Bill is certainly not alone in his experience, nor is it restricted to a small data set. Jean and I frequently do a head-to-head comparison of a wine, a portion of which is decanted, the remainder of which is not. Yes, this is done with food involved (that's the way we consume wine in our house) and, no, it's neither double blind nor triangulated. Nevertheless, it is our frequent experience that decantation accords a noticeable change to the wine and not infrequently improves the wine. In our experience, the scenario is one of two. Either the wine is on the young side and needs air to soften tannins and open up the wine, or the wine is old and needs air to remove the reductive character and open up the wine. I have rarely encountered the older wine that didn't benefit from at least a brief exposure to air.

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