Uncorked: When wine takes a beating, you can keep on drinking
by Pat Kettles
Aug 21, 2013 | 2376 views |  0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Despite its soaring popularity, a bit of mystique still surrounds wine service in fine dining establishments where certain protocol is followed when opening, decanting and serving wines. It’s a process designed to avoid harming the wine as well as present it in its best light at the peak of its deliciousness.

Although opinion is divided among wine professionals, some do not believe these theatrics necessary to avoid bruising wine. A Wine Spectator blogger writing under the pen name Dr. Vinny says he has never encountered a wine with a black eye.

Neither have I. Some wines may have problems, but bruising is not one of them. Wine is durable. It doesn’t float to merchants — it is jostled across land, air and sea to reach the comfort of our homes.

In celebration of our anniversary this year, the significant other and I treated ourselves to a splurge bottle of wine purchased last year in California — and never has a bottle of wine been a more perfect candidate for bruising.

We’d transported it back to Alabama in a specially designed crate with roller wheels, retrieving it from the airport baggage carousel along with our checked luggage. After resting in our cooler for a year, it then made the journey to the Gulf Coast to be consumed at our favorite coastal restaurant.

The evening did not go as anticipated.

First, our server had great difficulty opening the bottle. After much jostling and profuse apologies, a portion of the cork broke away. Defeated and mortified, the server handed the bottle off to the bartender who jostled it about even more. After the bartender was finally able to remove the cork — with surgical precision — the server returned with the opened bottle and an unrequested decanter that I waved off, asking the wine just be left alone to brood in the bottle for a while.

When the server returned to pour the wine, an inexplicable attempt was made to pour it through a filter about the size of a quarter, which the wine overran, splashing out onto the white linen cloth.

Luckily little wine was lost in the fiasco and all remained calm and civil through the ordeal — everyone has a bad night now and then. Remarkably, the wine remained gloriously unscathed and, if possible, seemed even more delicious than when originally tasted at the winery.

Wine should be handled with care. It should not be left in extreme hot or cold temperatures. Sparkling wines should not be shaken — we’ve all seen the ensuing Champagne showers at the end of grand prix races and in locker rooms of World Series winners.

Decanting wine will not bruise it, nor will running the wine through fancy aerators. However, decanting and aerating may become passé thanks to a common kitchen appliance — the blender. Yes, you heard correctly.

A 2011 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek — and, more recently, articles in the Washington Post — have reported on the benefits of aerating wines via kitchen blenders as advocated by Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s former chief technology officer and co-author of “Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking.”

Myhrvold eschews traditional methods of aerating, opting instead to let wine swirl and froth in the blender for a minute. He says this is the best way to aerate wine throughout the entire bottle and it eliminates the need for a decanter because one can pour straight from the blender. This method of aerating and decanting is referred to as “hyperdecanting.”

Myhrvold and his associates conducted blind tastings with a panel of experts, pitting hyperdecanted wines against the same wines decanted by more traditional methods. The experts could not tell the two apart and, in fact, preferred the hyperdecanted wines in some instances. Myhrvold recommends trying the method at home with less-expensive wines.

I may have to do that at some point, but for right now I’m just thankful my beachside server did not have access to a blender.

Email Pat Kettles at pkettles@annistonstar.com

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