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Stand back and give that wine some air!!

By Michael "Ty" Taiani

Oxygen (O2) is probably the most influential of all the elements known to mankind. Both its positive and negative effects on wine are profound, to say the least. But in this latest Take-Away, I, an optimist, would like to speak of just the positives.

Let's start with the basics. The process of granting a wine the ability to breathe (a.k.a. aerating, decanting, or oxygenating) allows for several changes to occur over a period of time, which could be anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours. These changes can transpire in a quality wine glass or glass decanter. For those who are unaware of what a glass decanter is, I like to describe it as a funky-looking beverage pitcher. Generally, the wide base of it is designed to expose as much of the wine's surface to the air within. Good point to mention here: an uncorked bottle of wine does not in any manner aerate - to do so, the wine's surface must brush up against oxygen that is in the air. What occurs from that point is indeed molecular science. First, the wine's molecules "grab" the oxygen molecules. Those molecules are then released into the surrounding air to become the (wine's) aroma, termed as its "nose." Further interactions begin to smooth or soften the harsher aspects of the wine, such as tannin (compounds which give wine a dry, astringent mouth feel). So, a great analogy to use here to describe the overall process is what happens when you take black coffee and add cream...what a difference!! Got it?

A great story that truly emphasizes the importance of granting a wine, mainly (young) reds, the breathing process, is one I feel compelled to share. Last September I was cordially invited to a "by-invitation only" wine tasting that was billed as "the tasting of the year" with several 2005 first-growth Bordeaux available for sampling. Although these wines were priced from a few hundred to nearly a thousand dollars a bottle, I found them to be tighter than the rubber bands around a golf ball! What a disappointment! If only the wines had been aerated for a few hours prior to the sampling, they may have performed to everyone's expectations as the "vintage of the century."

In recent months I've done some sampling of Hudson Valley reds from different wineries - Baco Noirs, Pinot Noirs, Merlots, Cab Francs, and blends - which were not aerated. Overall, they were appealingly good. Question: How much better could they have been with aeration? Try decanting these reds at home yourself to see if they enhance the experience.

1. Be aware of vintage dates, especially for reds. Generally consider a red "young" if it is less than 21/2 years from its vintage date.

2. Purchase a glass decanter. No need to spend more than $20- $30 unless you want to. They also make a unique gift for anyone who regularly partakes in wine consumption.

3. Invest in highly-functional stemwear designed to enhance a wine's specific attributes.

4. And for those gotta-have-it, high-tech James Bond fans, a new gadget to try is the Vinturi Wine Aerator which retails for $40. Look for it at some better wine shops in the Hudson Valley or visit for product details.

Michael Taiani Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), aka Ty the Wine Guy, is a food and wine consultant and marketer. Assisting people with food and wine is his passion.

Hudson Valley Wine magazine Summer 2014 issue

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