Why decant a wine? Tonight’s sommelier, your favorite winemaker, that snobby wine obsessed colleague will probably all have a different explanation, from removing sediment to aerating the wine, soften tannins, to the more refined explanation reported recently Tyler Colman on wine-searcher.com (HERE) that decanting has been shown to actually reduce the concentration of organic acids and polyphenols in the wine (of which the consequences are debatable… especially given the efforts that winemakers often go through to extract those polyphenols – which also happen to include those much-hyped antioxidants – out of the grapes and into your wine). For other reasons, too, the study conducted at Shenyang School of Pharmacy is a bit controversial, as the decanting conditions required to see an effect do not necessarily correspond to what goes on at your table, as well as to the incongruency of the reaction ratios – Colman reports that Dr. Andrew Waterhouse of UC Davis is not convinced that the quantity of oxygen dissolved in the wine during decanting would be enough to react in any significant way with the tannins.
So the mystery remains open, which caused me to begin thinking about another ‘mysterious’ practice that resembles decanting in many ways – the biodynamic method of dynamization.
Dynamization involves the mixing of the liquid containing biodynamic preparations in a very particular fashion – first with stirring in one direction to create a vortex, and then rapidly and suddenly changing direction in order to create what is referred to as a chaotic flow. This technique builds upon the principle that water is capable of absorbing and retaining information in various forms, and then behaves accordingly when it comes in contact with living beings. For example, a simple experiment involving three jars of cooked rice covered in water has been described, where you close each jar while thinking of a particular word, and write the word on the outside of the jar, for example love, hate, and joy. The jars are left and the rate and nature of the rotting process that ensues corresponds to the words on the jars (full disclosure : I have not done this but have seen images of the results. I would like to try). Thus the dynamisation of biodynamic preparations is meant to help the water to absorb and integrate the information stored in the preparation – whether it be compost, a “tea” made from plants with particular properties, or quartz.
Could decanting have a similar effect on wine? Could the water in wine actually be absorbing some type of information from the process, that gives decanting the ability to change the wine more than it “should” be able to, given the amount of oxygen that can be absorbed during the process? What would happen if you decanted a wine while sending it good vibes? Could you make that Yellowtail taste a bit more like a Lafite (I don’t really think so…)?
It might sound a bit outside of the bottle, but looking at the science, I don’t yet see an explanation with a whole lot more backing. This is all about being open-minded when you open that bottle.
Thanks Tyler Colman! http://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2013/08/decanting-what-makes-it-work