How to "Age" Your Wine 5 Years in 20 Seconds: Hyperdecanting

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(Photo credit: Oandu)

Wine tends to attract a lot of snobs who use bad French to ruin things.

Done at the dinner table, a brutal technique called “hyperdecanting” will appall that muppet with the popped collar on his polo shirt. It will also make your wine delicious, and make you a hero to everyone who wants to punch him in his smug little face. [cue 0:24]

On a practical level, you can outgun most faux-sommeliers (see what I did there?) with a little brute force. To do this, you first need to understand a bit about aeration.

When in Rome

Generally speaking, letting your wine “breathe” makes it taste better. Just like in our gluten-free kitten pancakes (see pg. 147*), a little air goes a long way…

Letting wine “breathe” equals increasing the surface area of the wine exposed to air for a set period of time. In wine-speak, this “opens the bouquet” (releases aroma compounds) and “softens” the flavor. In simple terms, it usually makes it taste better. Though the mechanism is debated, it appears to reduce the cotton-mouth effects of tannins, which makes aeration perfectly suited to “big” red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux. In another context, tannins are what make your mouth feel puckered and chalky if you drink overbrewed black tea. Aeration may also minimize wine defects like mercaptins, not to be confused with midichlorians.

Enough with the details, Ferriss. How do I aerate?

We’ll look at four methods: swirling and swishing, decanting, using a Vinturi, and beating the sh*t out of it. I’ll explain how to use them first, and there is a demo video at the end.

Method 1: Swirling and Swishing

This is the standard tabletop move. To avoid making an ass of yourself: Hold the glass by the stem, keeping the glass base on the table, and move it in fast but small circles. Take a small sip, hold the wine in your mouth as you tilt your head forward, and suck in a thin stream of air, almost as if you’re gargling upside down. Swallow and make a mmm-like sound to indicate deep thought.

Slap yourself if you do this while your friends are drinking Coronas.

Method 2: Decanting

Decanting is, strictly speaking, transferring liquid from one container to another. The Romans pioneered the use of glass decanters, which they used to remove sediment, leaving the gunk in the original storage vessel.

Decanters with wide bases are now used to expose wine to air, often for 1–2 hours or more.

Method 3: The Vinturi and Wordplay

The Vinturi® wine aerator is a handheld plastic device that capitalizes on Bernoulli’s Principle. Mr. B’s rule dictates—in simple terms—that as you increase the speed of a fluid’s movement, you decrease its pressure. Decrease the pressure of wine and it becomes easier to infuse more air in less time.

If you pour wine from the bottle, through the Vinturi, and directly into a friend’s wineglass, you will hear the accelerated siphoning of air into the stream, which also has a nice party-trick effect. Bingo: Mr. Science–style aeration and a nice shortcut.

The difference is subtle, but it makes for less waiting and less cleanup than traditional decanting.

Method 4: Beat the Sh*t Out of It

This method is not subtle. It’s a scientifically well-founded middle finger pointed at people who give a wonderful beverage a bad name.

I owe a hat tip to the brilliant Nathan Myhrvold, former CTO of Microsoft, master French chef, and creator of the iconic, never-to-be-outdone, $600 (or $450 here) cooking encyclopedia, Modernist Cuisine.

If aeration is exposing more liquid surface area to air, how can we take this to its logical extreme?

Blend it into a fury, of course. Nathan has done this with vintage wine gifted to him by Spanish royalty, but I’d suggest a practice run on something from Trader Joe’s first. Here’s how I do it:

– Pour 1–2 glasses of the wine into a large mixing bowl or—my favorite—a large Bomex beaker. If you’re using the latter, 600 ml of wine is perfect for the next step; just leave plenty of room at the top (I fill to around 400 ml). Take a sip for a good sense of “before.”

– Lower an immersion blender, also called a “stick” blender, into the glass, then blend for 20–30 seconds. Tip your container (or tilt the blender best you can) to enhance the foaming effect. If you have a standing blender like a Vitamix, feel free to go nuts.

The wine should now have a nice heady froth on it, like a proper Guinness. Pour into a serving cup—I favor a 250-ml Bomex, which is exactly one-third of a standard bottle of wine—and enjoy. It should taste markedly different. And, ladies and gents, that is how you achieve 3 hours of decanting, sans fancy descriptors, in 20–30 seconds. Wink at your most offended guest and ask them if they arm wrestle.

Thank you, Mr. Myhrvold.

(*P.S. The gluten-free kitten pancakes are a joke.)

The above is one of hundreds of shortcuts from The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life, available here at 50-80% off before the holidays.

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Ship times may vary, but I’m doing my best to get all of them to you by X-mas. Best not to count on it, but I’m double-checking again tomorrow.

Posted on: December 18, 2011.

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120 comments on “How to "Age" Your Wine 5 Years in 20 Seconds: Hyperdecanting

    • If you stick to wines that have been made to drink young then you won’t need water filters or aeraters, just pour from the bottle at 180 degrees and that should be enough for aeration. It does take some practice though so that you don’t overfill the glass, and if you do, it’s not a bad thing :) Trader Joe’s has some great drinkable wines at unbelievable prices.

      Like

      • Hey Tim!
        I read this post and have never heard of decanting before, I didn’t have any of the supplies on hand so I poured some wine into my protein shake mixer cup it worked great and even produced a froth at the top of it! Check it out.

        Like

      • Hey Tim, I am currently on Day Ten of fast, which I usually do 5-7 days each Christmas, just to clear out any rogue elements accumulated from the year. What method do you use? I follow Don Tolman (65+ yo scholar who does 40 day fasts and then runs 26 miles), and have been alternating days with fresh juices and water, along with some psyllium and green clay for bulk. Would love to see an article on methods you have looked into… (I’m sure that you, being you, did a LOT of research before you started!) Have mowed the lawn, cleaned out the gutters, had terrific sex and worked out upper body: amazing how much energy you can get from NOT eating!

        Like

      • I love how you play around with your body (sounds naughty? But I actually mean the clean version :P ). I guess if you’ve put on 37 pounds of muscles once, perhaps twice, you can do it again and again. Once you know how to lose weight and/or gain lean mass, there is no problems on losing it. Eventually you’ll find it back. I personally prefer my bulkier form :D

        Like

  1. Awesome info as usual! I use a venturi regularly, have to try the magic bullet on it.

    Off topic… Jeebus dude, did you steal that stove out of a FEMA trailer?

    Like

  2. I’m curious about this process and will definitely try it out but it seems there’s a bit of irony involved. Those who care enough about the tradition of enjoying fine wines will likely turn up their noses at what you suggest and those who enjoy wine socially among friends probably don’t care to sully more dishes than they care to wash once everyone’s gone home. So the question seems to be, is this not something more for the fringe foodie experimenters who are all in it for the flavor? I don’t see it catching on.

    Like

  3. Oh Tim, really? A stick blender? LOL. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should… ;-)

    BTW, that looks like an Italian wine (my fav), what were you, um, drinking?

    Ciao.
    Michael
    Los Gatos, CA

    Like

  4. Call me old fashioned, but I still prefer the “slow” way. There is nothing more fun than getting to see how a wine evolves over an hour (or even a few hours). Besides I think you have a lot more precise control over the overall process of aerating the wine using a traditional decanter since it happens over a longer period of time.

    Still a very cool post though; nice work Tim.

    Like

    • [To Chase]

      It’s not cool to scrape someone’s website. Be inspired, but don’t copy. More power to you if you want to start a blog, but there are too many free WordPress themes out there for you to justify scraping Tim’s site down to the bone. Design, layout, menu, disclosure, it’s all there. C’mon man…

      Like

  5. Can we get another post on getting dreams into action?? Or getting ideas into actual products. That’s what I’m working hard to do on my site and any help would be great!

    Like

    • Hi Robert,

      I appreciate the comment, but please note: the goal isn’t to find something that’s new to everyone. On the web, that’s not possible, especially with an educated audience (which I’m fortunate to have).

      The goal is to find and vet useful things that *most* of my readers won’t have seen. That could be 90%+ in some cases, but it could also be 51%.

      Happy holidays,

      Tim

      Like

  6. Tim,
    What’s your advice about not over decanting young wines? I have always followed the advice that you don’t put a young wine in a decanter to swirl because you will literally over air ate it. Versus older wines need a lot of decanting like 8 years or more being older. What’s your advice or rule of thumb

    Like

    • Greg, there’s nothing wrong with decanting a young wine, but generally you don’t need to. If it’s heavily oaked and perhaps too young to drink (many are), decanting it and letting it sit overnight might help. As Tim says, taste it and see — if it tastes fine, drink up! If it doesn’t, decant it and wait — but only if you have time.

      Decanting isn’t magic, as Tim shows, and far too many people worry about it. Vinturri is cute, but a waste of time in my book.

      Ciao.
      Michael

      Like

  7. Gotta watch out for those pesky snobs… especially ones trying to be witty with a well placed double entendre.

    Haha! Seriously though, that one made me laugh twice. Once for the double entendre and once for the fact that you immediately pointed it out.

    Question: Does a self-deprecating point of wit, when played on a double entendre directed at pretentious snobs, cause an immediate escalation to triple entendre?

    I think my head is about to explode with the sheer awesomeness of it all.

    Well played sir, well played indeed!

    – James

    Like

  8. “Wine tends to attract a lot of snobs who use bad French to ruin things.”

    “Though the mechanism is debated, it appears to reduce the cotton-mouth effects of tannins, which makes aeration perfectly suited to “big” red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Bourdeaux.”

    It’s Bordeaux, and a “bourde” is a stupid mistake.

    But I’m sure you did that on purpose :P

    Like

  9. Warm wine… mmmmm

    Maybe refrigerate the wine a little beforehand…

    I have that exact Aerator… its awesome (and does produce a markedly different taste)

    Like