Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
The other day, I felt the time had come to Vitamix some Bordeaux. Any reasonably sane person, of course, might wonder why. After all, the Vitamix (or at least the Vitamix Professional Series 750) whizzes its razor-sharp steel blades around at 24,000 rpm, which is fast enough to liquify pretty much anything. You could toss a license plate and some pool balls in there and end up with a smoothie; a weird one, but a smoothie nonetheless.
The reason I decided to frappé my French red, though, was to check out the idea of “hyper-decanting,” which is the inspiration of Nathan Myhrvold, ex–chief technology officer of Microsoft, all-around mad-scientist foodie and author of the monumental (meaning it weighs 50 pounds) book Modernist Cuisine. Myhrvold’s idea is pretty straightforward: Ordinary decanting - i.e., pouring your wine into a decanter - achieves its benefits because the wine is exposed to air. Blending it intensifies the exposure, and thus the benefits.
Before we get to the results, I should answer a basic question, which is: “Why the heck decant a wine in the first place?”
There are two reasons. First, older red wines often produce sediment; you decant them so that you don’t inadvertently drink the sediment, an eminently practical idea. The other reason to decant a wine is to aerate it, the benefits of which are somewhat more debatable. Basically, the idea is that by exposing a young red wine to air, you soften its tannins and intensify its aromas, and make it more pleasant to drink.
So what Myhrvold is suggesting is really hyper-aerating, rather than hyper-decanting. There are all sorts of widgets available to aerate wine - they attach to the top of the bottle, and when you pour the wine through, they slurp and swozzle it in such a way that it aerates before it reaches your glass. Whether they work or not, most of them sound vaguely gastric, which I find aesthetically questionable. Me, if I want to give a wine some air, I usually just pour it into a glass pitcher (you can pick up a perfectly nice one on Amazon for about $10).
But not today. Instead I poured the Bordeaux into the Vitamix - you could imagine it crying “Noooooooo, not the blender!” plaintively. But this was science: Sacrifices had to be made.
I slapped on the lid, turned the speed dial up to 10 and let it rip. Myhrvold suggests 60 seconds; I followed his suggestion. Then I turned off the Vitamix, let the froth subside, poured myself a glass and took a sip.
The Vitamix had definitely aerated the wine. In fact, it had aerated the holy heck out of it. Unfortunately, it had also raised the wine’s temperature up to about 95 degrees, along the way extracting some sort of bizarre, celery-like aromatic note - possibly from the plastic sides of the carafe - and adding a distinctive engine-oil flavor to it.
I’m perfectly willing to admit that this could have been user error. Myhrvold does say “blender,” not “super-high-powered crazy-ass psycho-blender.” It’s also possible that our test kitchen (from whom I borrowed the darn thing) had been grinding up celery for days without telling me, thus permanently tainting the carafe with essence of vegetable. But either way, it was still an awful lot of effort just to produce a glass of hot, celery-smelling Bordeaux.
Call me old-fashioned, but I think I’m going to stick to my pour-it-in-a-pitcher approach.
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so this is what alcoholics do with their spare time. so sad.
Or, you could just skip all of this nonsense and drink whiskey.
This made me smile. Very quirky writing I can appreciate. I think I'll try my own experiment at home ;)
So you only tried this once, rather than trying different blender times? Doesn't make it very useful to other people. OK, I know not to use a Vitamix at max for 1 minute– like I would be that crazy anyway. Lower speed? Lower the time? We'll never know. Did you have a five-minute article deadline, or what?
No control, either. How about blending half the bottle, and setting the other half aside for comparison? Or decanting a portion the ordinary way, also for comparison. "I dumped some wine in a blender and it didn't taste good" tells us nothing; the wine might have tasted nasty all by itself. But we'll never know.
That's a bit extreme!!
If you are looking for the steps to decant your wine read our article at http://wineandcheesepairingmastery.com/wine-decanter
Steve Sandwich is right.
This is an article? What was the point? Why not do the experiment correctly (and sanely) and report the results. THAT would have been interesting. Would the writer review a new car by taking it out and rolling it? Now that I mention it, he probably would.
And ALWAYS make sure to sniff the cork upon opening.
Ah the memories. ^_^ Do sniff the cork.
I routinely "blender" wine, but it all depends on the wine, most wines won't get better by hyper-decanting. From my research, only decent dry reds that are just "not done yet" work best. I am having good luck with 2010 Calif cabs. I have done blind taste tests with guests, a $2 2010 Calif cab "post blender" beat a $15 "non-blended" cab hands down. The "post blender" wine was always preferred over the same wine "pre-blender". I hyper-decant them straight from the wine cooler to overcome the added heat of the blending, then let them sit in the carafe for a little while. Chose the wine carefully and try, you may be surprised that it does work with the right wines.
Nathan Myhrvold – give mankind your legacy. Publish "Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking" as an ebook and make it a free download for the masses! If nothing else at least publish you at home version for free. Linus Torvolds and Bill Gates have given mankind great things. Now it is your turn to make the world a better place.
I'll call you stupid.
Use a CLEAN glass blender. Emphasis on clean. Serve at proper wine temperature of 58 degrees for a Bordeaux.
How did you get your job?
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