Nathan Myhrvold, author of “Modernist Cuisine,” has introduced most of the wine world to hyperdecanting, a method of improving the quality of a freshly opened bottle of red wine by "torturing" it in a blender. When I read about the method, I knew I had to try it.
I just pour the wine in, frappé away at the highest power setting for 30 to 60 seconds, and then allow the froth to subside (which happens quickly) before serving.
Myhrvold recommends hyperdecanting in a blind taste test the first time, but I tortured my wine with eyes wide open, simply because you really can’t do this type of experiment blindly when you’re all by yourself.
Since my local liquor store has a sad selection of wines and didn’t have either of the sustainable, nationally sold wines I had hoped to get, I ended up randomly choosing a bottle that looked appealing. I bought Primal Roots 2010 Red Blend ($8.99), a California blend of Merlot, Syrah and Zinfandel. Then I got to work with my experiment.
Right out of the bottle
Poured directly from the bottle, this wine appealed to me, but each flavor was very distinctive. I could smell and then taste vanilla, chocolate and dark berries. There was a distinct spiciness to it that came out at the end. Not bad, but I could tell that decanting would help.
I poured some of the wine into my decanter. When I poured the decanted wine into my glass, the aromas were still distinct, but the flavors had blended together a bit more. It had mellowed out just a bit.
Before trying the big blender, I poured some wine in a large measuring cup and whipped it up for 30 seconds with my stick blender. After 30 seconds, there was a significant change in the aroma of the wine. The individual scents were not so pronounced. When I took a sip, there was a big difference in taste. The spiciness had softened and the flavors were even more mellow than when I simply decanted the wine. The wine, which wasn’t bad to start with, had improved greatly.
My last experiment was with the blender. I poured a glass of wine into the blender and blended on high for 30 seconds. The wine was very frothy when finished, much frothier than with the stick blender. Once the froth went down, I took a sip. The results weren’t significantly different than even the stick blender results, but there was one difference. The wine from the blender seemed warmer. It wasn’t a problem; it was just a difference.
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Hyperdecanting could more accurately be called hyperaerating. What’s actually happening is that a lot of oxygen is being added to the wine in a short period of time. Traditional decanting of wine has two purposes: the first is to change containers so that the sediment from a bottle of wine stays in the bottle and doesn’t make it into the drinker’s glass.
The second reason for decanting is to add air to a bottle of wine that hasn’t yet fully matured. Decanting an inexpensive wine can make it seem like a better bottle of wine. Decanting and then waiting an hour to drink the wine can create a noticeable improvement. But who wants to wait an hour after decanting to enjoy their first glass? Not me.
When the wine gets a quick infusion of a lot air from a stick blender or a regular blender, it seems to me as if that’s taking the place of allowing the wine to sit in the decanter for an hour after being poured. It might not seem like the classiest thing to do to a bottle of wine, but I’m not really concerned about that.
Of course, I’m not going to serve the wine out of a measuring cup or the pitcher of my blender. When I do hyperdecant a bottle of wine, I’ll pour it into my decanter before serving to make it look nicer.
I was very pleased with the results of my hyperdecanting experiment. I don’t like to spend a lot of money on wine, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to drink the most pleasing wine my wallet allows. I think my blender will get even more use from here on out.
Hyperdecanting won’t improve every bottle of wine. A really good bottle of wine that has fully matured might be ruined by hyperdecanting. And some bottles are just so bad that nothing can help them. But, for that $10 bottle of red that you know improves from regular decanting, hyperdecanting might just improve it even more.
Have you experimented with hyperdecanting wine? What results have you gotten?
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