Is Hyperdecanting All Hype?

Traditionally, decanting wine involves pouring the wine into a larger receptacle and allowing it to sit and “breathe”. This helps to reduce the taste of tannins and the astringency. Additionally, it will help bring out the natural aromas and flavors. Decanters made of metal or earthenware have been traced back to the Roman Empire.

Although most Walla Faces red wines do not need to be decanted, our bold 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, the Janice, benefits from sitting in a decanter for about an hour at cellar temperature. Unfortunately, many of us are impatient creatures. Waiting an hour for a glass of wine can be a slow torture. That’s where hyperdecanting comes in.

Master Chef Nathan Myhrvold, author of the colossal (an expensive!) cooking volume Modernist Cuisine proposed hyperdecanting as a quicker method for decanting your favorite wine.

Myhrvold outlines his technique, stating “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. I call it ‘hyperdecanting.’ Although torturing an expensive wine in this way may cause sensitive oenophiles to avert their eyes, it almost invariably improves red wines—particularly younger ones, but even a 1982 Château Margaux. Don’t just take my word for it, try it yourself.”

So we did!

I wanted to test which method of wine would yield the most delicious results for the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon: undecanted wine, traditionally decanted wine, or hyperdecanted wine.

To ensure that our preconceptions about decanting and hyperdecanting didn’t play a role, the tastings were done blind. Everyone tried all three wines, but they tried them in different orders and they didn’t know what version they were trying.

20 participants tried the wines, ranked them in order from least favorite to favorite, and offered their tasting notes. I then assigned each ‘favorite’ three points, each ‘second favorite’ two points and each ‘least favorite’ one point.
The hyperdecanted wine and the decanted wine were the best liked, receiving almost identical scores. However, they got very different comments from the tasters.

Although the hyperdecanted wine had the mildest tannins, participants reported a bitter, unpleasant taste. The traditionally decanted wine still displayed very strong tannins, but had a richer bouquet and fuller, more flavorful body and a more appealing mouthfeel.

Given these comments, it is clear that hyperdecanting does change the flavor of the wine significantly. However, it is NOT the equivalent of traditional decanting.

For individuals who appreciate bold red wines, traditional decanting will offer a much better product with more flexibility, since you can choose how long you decant the wine. Still, if you are very sensitive to tannins, you might want to give hyperdecanting a try on an inexpensive bottle of wine.