Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Victorwine » Thu Jun 06, 2013 12:10 am

Basically IMHO the whole idea behind “breathing” (whether it involves just opening the bottle and disturbing the surface (swirling a wine glass vigorously), performing a form of decanting (half bottle, full bottle, double, triple decant or whatever) is to get as much “smelly air” to the surface of the wine. It’s like right after I mow my lawn, I just love sitting in the backyard and smelling the freshly cutgrass. (The action of the lawnmower allows the cut grass to release smelly compounds and for a while anyway “smelly air” hovers over the lawn or immediate area.
Like Steve I don’t think that decanting or aeration would cause tannins in a “young wine” to “soften” (or undergo a chemical change per say). For this to happen a lot more time might be necessary and a “change” in color intensity (“browning” or “bricking”) might have to be observed. (After decanting many “young” red wines I never immediately noticed, “browning” or even a change in color intensity). Other chemical reactions might occur much more rapidly, some chemical compounds might easily take on oxygen others might even easily give it up. So technically you are not really “removing” it from the wine (or stopping its formation) but allowing certain “smelly” compounds come to the forefront and others take a “backseat”. In other words the action of “breathing” or aeration is allowing the wine to express another side of its many “split personalities”. (That next Oaky “New World” Chardonnay you experience try a half bottle (or full bottle) decant and see if you can get the oak influence to take a “backseat”).

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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Mark Lipton » Thu Jun 06, 2013 3:56 pm

Victorwine wrote:Like Steve I don’t think that decanting or aeration would cause tannins in a “young wine” to “soften” (or undergo a chemical change per say). For this to happen a lot more time might be necessary and a “change” in color intensity (“browning” or “bricking”) might have to be observed. (After decanting many “young” red wines I never immediately noticed, “browning” or even a change in color intensity). Other chemical reactions might occur much more rapidly, some chemical compounds might easily take on oxygen others might even easily give it up. So technically you are not really “removing” it from the wine (or stopping its formation) but allowing certain “smelly” compounds come to the forefront and others take a “backseat”.


What is the basis for your assertion that the oxidative polymerization of polyphenolics is too slow to occur in a decanter? In the lab I've performed similar cross-linking reactions that occur almost instantaneously under conditions not too dissimilar from what would be found in a decanter. Your idea that a color change would have to occur I find puzzling. Tannins undergo many polymerization reactions, gradually increasing in size, until eventually they fall out of solution as sediment (taking this discussion full circle, I am relying on Peynaud for some of this information). It isn't until this last stage that the color of the wine will change, so it's not indicative of tannin polymerization per se. Softening of the tannins will occur, again relying on Peynaud, as they increase in size, even if they remain in solution, so even a limited amount of tannin polymerization will result in a change in perceived astringency.

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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Dale Williams » Thu Jun 06, 2013 4:19 pm

Over the years, in my SOBER groups and others, I've had the magnum with half decanted and half resealed with minimal exposure in a 750 scenario several times, sometimes I've preferred the less air wine, others the more air wine. I've never encountered the totally cracked up wine (obviously the person doesn't choose superfragile wines).

Even with 50+ year wines, I've seen far better results with opening (but not decanting until service) well in advance than PnP (or pop, decant, pour). As Mark said, I have rarely encountered the older wine that didn't benefit from at least a brief exposure to air..

I just didn't have time to open a 99 POtel RSV before an offline last week, it was tight and unfriendly when poured, but everyone who held on like more with some air later in evening.
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Steve Slatcher » Thu Jun 06, 2013 4:35 pm

Mark Lipton wrote:Tannins undergo many polymerization reactions, gradually increasing in size, until eventually they fall out of solution as sediment (taking this discussion full circle, I am relying on Peynaud for some of this information).

It's not really relevent to your main point, Mark, but I understand this story is a gross simplifications. Different tannins increase and decrease in size at various stages of aging, and IIRC it seems most likely that the smaller ones give the greatest impression of astringency. See http://www.wineanorak.com/tannins.htm . Again the references to original research are a bit vague unfortunately, but it should be possible to track down.

Apart from that, I'll just say that information, whether true or false, given about the wine being tasted has a large and well-documented effect on perception. And any evidence on the effect of decanting that is not performed under controlled conditions (in particular, blind) must be take with a huge pinch of salt. I hope no one here takes offence - none is intended, and I apply the same standard to any conclusions I personally make about wine. And at the end of the day, the scientific truth is of little importance. If you think decanting makes a difference then it probably will regardless of any science, and I see no reason to stop doing it. But if you find it a chore, and/or have doubts, why not try it without?

Heck, now I fear I may sound condescending. I don't mean to be that either. I am a great believer in people doing whatever they can to enhance their enjoyment of wine. From a geeky standpoint I like to argue about facts, but that is not what wine is really about.
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Mark Lipton » Thu Jun 06, 2013 5:20 pm

Steve Slatcher wrote:
Mark Lipton wrote:Tannins undergo many polymerization reactions, gradually increasing in size, until eventually they fall out of solution as sediment (taking this discussion full circle, I am relying on Peynaud for some of this information).

It's not really relevent to your main point, Mark, but I understand this story is a gross simplifications. Different tannins increase and decrease in size at various stages of aging, and IIRC it seems most likely that the smaller ones give the greatest impression of astringency. See http://www.wineanorak.com/tannins.htm . Again the references to original research are a bit vague unfortunately, but it should be possible to track down.


Steve,
You are correct that it is a more complex process, but the broad outline is still relevant. Yes, it is a dynamic equilibrium, with both polymerization and depolymerization occurring. However, under the pressure of plentiful oxygen -- a powerful oxidant by anyone's criteria -- that equilibrium will be forced in the direction of increasing polymerization. UC Davis researchers have identified two different pathways for cross-linking of polyphenolics: "oxidative" and "non-oxidative." I have previously quibbled with their terminology, since their "non-oxidative" pathways requires the presence of acetaldehyde, which can only be produced by oxidation of ethanol AFAICT, but in the presence of plentiful molecular oxygen, all would surmise that the oxidative pathway to predominate. In that reaction a C-H bond and an O-H bond are converted to a C-O bond and water (with the addition of an oxygen atom, hence the designation of oxidative), a process that to my eyes looks completely irreversible.

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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Steve Slatcher » Fri Jun 07, 2013 3:19 am

Mark

But if the direction is mainly in the direction of longer tannin molecules, and it is generally the longer ones that are more astringent (as stated by Leigh Francis in Jamie's article), you would expect wines to get more astringent with age. I am not sure what, but SOMETHING is incorrect in the generalisations.

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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Victorwine » Fri Jun 07, 2013 8:15 am

Hi Steve,
Thanks for linking Jamie Goode’s article. It’s when the longer chains of tannins that can no longer remain in solution and “fallout” that makes the wine’s tannins seem to “soften”. But then again some wines age beautifully and gracefully without throwing any (or very little) sediment.

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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Victorwine » Fri Jun 07, 2013 8:27 am

Hi Mark,
You are assuming that I “decant” normally? Decanting by definition is a way of removing the wine from its sediment and aerating it. “Racking” is basically the same thing.

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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Dale Williams » Fri Jun 07, 2013 9:04 am

Steve Slatcher wrote: And any evidence on the effect of decanting that is not performed under controlled conditions (in particular, blind) must be take with a huge pinch of salt. I hope no one here takes offence - none is intended, and I apply the same standard to any conclusions I personally make about wine. And at the end of the day, the scientific truth is of little importance. .


Steve, don't think anyone thinks you are condescending. But the idea that there is "Scientific truth " that " it is only faulty wines that need to be exposed to air before drinking. " supposes that everyone's tastes are similar and there is a right and wrong conclusion re tastes.
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Bill Spohn » Fri Jun 07, 2013 12:37 pm

Dale Williams wrote:
Steve Slatcher wrote: And any evidence on the effect of decanting that is not performed under controlled conditions (in particular, blind) must be take with a huge pinch of salt. I hope no one here takes offence - none is intended, and I apply the same standard to any conclusions I personally make about wine. And at the end of the day, the scientific truth is of little importance. .


Steve, don't think anyone thinks you are condescending. But the idea that there is "Scientific truth " that " it is only faulty wines that need to be exposed to air before drinking. " supposes that everyone's tastes are similar and there is a right and wrong conclusion re tastes.



More than half of my wine tasting is carried out blind, and most of the times I've been exposed to the two halves of a magnum experience have been blind.

I don't think Peynaud was saying that airing does not change wines, just that extended airing can be detrimental and that only wines with a problem need be 'risked' that way in the hopes of clearing up whatever issue they suffer from.

My personal view on decanting is conservative. I don't do long decants on anything but vintage Port (which is really only quasi-wine anyway). I usually prefer a leisurely approach, decanting soon before consumption and holding wine in the glass for at least 1/2 an hour to see if indeed it is going to change (some do, some don't and the ones that do can change for either better or worse).

I am fortunate enough to be able to taste quite a few older wines (I have a lunch in a couple of weeks with 1928 and 1926 clarets as well as more modern 70s and 80s vintages and while such wines are not 'flawed', they can be very delicate and oxidation very often changes them substantially for the worse over a relatively short period of time. You decent and drink that sort of wine immediately and can watch the oldest ones disintegrate in the glass over a time as short as a quarter of an hour. The tastesr that leave it in the glass, reluctant to have the last taste, lose out.

I'd rather take my time pondering a wine for an hour in the glass than decant too soon and have it change for the worse before I taste it. Perhaps that was also at the root of Peynaud's statement. In any case I can't see it as a denial that some changes after air are positive; I could see it as a statament that as many are negative, it isn't a good bet to do a long decant and I can't disagree with that. As his tastevin is now retired permanently, we can't ask him to expand on his statement.

The extended decanting that some speak of doing is in my estimation silliness. Open a wine for several hours and yes, if it is a tannic young red, the texture of the wine may improve, but what of the volatile compounds that may leave that would have been the basis for all that is most interesting in the nose? It worries me when people attend a tasting and say that they decanted the wine 6 hours before and put it back in the bottle, as I wonder just what I might be missing. It is similar to tasting a corked wine and wondering what it might have been like had it been sound - you'll never know for sure.
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Steve Slatcher » Fri Jun 07, 2013 3:02 pm

Dale Williams wrote:
Steve Slatcher wrote:But the idea that there is "Scientific truth " that " it is only faulty wines that need to be exposed to air before drinking. " supposes that everyone's tastes are similar and there is a right and wrong conclusion re tastes.
Steve, don't think anyone thinks you are condescending. But the idea that there is "Scientific truth " that " it is only faulty wines that need to be exposed to air before drinking. " supposes that everyone's tastes are similar and there is a right and wrong conclusion re tastes.

There is also the question of the definition of faulty of course. I may also have not been paraphrasing Peynaud very well on that, I was doing so from memory so I may be partly at fault. When I have a bit more time, I'll have another shot. I'd hate to misrepresent him.
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Mark Lipton » Sat Jun 08, 2013 12:44 am

Victorwine wrote:Hi Mark,
You are assuming that I “decant” normally? Decanting by definition is a way of removing the wine from its sediment and aerating it. “Racking” is basically the same thing.


Victor,
I am not sure that I follow you. I refer to decanting because of your previous statement that "decanting or aeration" doesn't soften tannins. A Francophone friend of mine pointed out that the French have two distinct verbs (decanter and carafer) to describe decantation for the removal of sediment vs. decantation for the purpose of aerating. I agree that racking is decantation on a barrel scale.

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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Victorwine » Sat Jun 08, 2013 11:33 pm

Ones perception of a young harsh tannic wine could most definitely be altered by the action of decanting (and to what degree it is carried out). But IMHO this is more due to the fact that the action of the decanting brings the wine’s fruitier (or just aromatic) characteristics more to the “forefront” and the tannin “influence” takes a “backseat”.

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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Steve Slatcher » Sun Jun 09, 2013 8:08 am

I mentioned Jancis Robinson earlier. I may have misrepresented her views too, so here is more precisely what she wrote. It is taken from Wine Tasting Workbook, first published as Masterglass, 1983, so it is quite old now. There is very similar text in the Oxford Companion, written about a decade later, where she attributes Peynaud as the experimenter and authority.

After a bit of discussion about generally held view (which I think we know already), she writes "[T]he results of comparitive tastings of samples of the same wines opened and decanted at varying intervals before tasting have been suspiciously inconclusive. Furthermore, some authorities argure that the effects of aeration can only be harmful; that by exposing a delicate bouquet to air you may make it evanesce, and that the interesting reactions between oxygen and wine are too complicated to be speeded up. All that can happen, they argue, is that the wine starts to oxidisze too fast, and therefore deteriorates."

She also writes "Some wines, full-bodied reds particularly, can be too intensely flavours when young. [...] [T]he decanter allows than to lose some of their aggressive youth and mellow nito a more palatable, if more vapid, middle age."
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Steve Slatcher » Sun Jun 09, 2013 8:36 am

Now let's take a look at Peynaud in The Taste of Wine.

He gives the first rule of decanting as "Only bottles which have a deposit need to be decanted, whatever the nature of the deposit and whatever the age of the bottle. Consequently , a bottle which has no deposit can be served straightaway."

And later "I have carried of dozens on controlled decanting experiments on wines of all ages and all origins." He used inert gas or different periods of expose to air to control the level of dissolved oxygen. One conclusion is that it is definitely wrong to decant old wines, wherever they come from, for several hours, and even a light aeration will reduce the bouquet.

He also say "J R Garrigo, an American winer lover, has carried out many experiments himself and has arrived at the same conclusions." Garrigo says oustanding California Cabs and Zins lose bouguet, body and personality when decanted a couple of hours in advance. "On the other hand, wines with faults on the nose or which have certain foreign tastes are improved by contact with air". I think at that point Peynaud was still giving the view of Garrigo, but he goes on to say "This observation tallies with that of numerous impartial observers". The faults that can be helped by aeration are gassiness due to refermentation in the bottle, and slight reductive faults - this bit he puts in quotes, but it is unclear who he Peynaud is quoting - it might even be himself.

He then gives rules 2 and 3 of decanting: "if it is necessary to decant, it should be done at the last moment" and "only wines suffereing from some fault (for example a lack of cleanness on the nose, the presence of some gas, a little thinness in constitution) warrant decanting sufficiently in advance to allow for plenty of contact with air."

Note that I am not posting this to advance any argument of my own - I have said my piece. I just wanted to clarify what Peynaud wrote. Personally I would like to see a few more detainls about his experiments - it is not clear to what extent they inform his views on decanting. I also note he is a bit vague about the faults that aeration might cure.
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Howie Hart » Sun Jun 09, 2013 9:48 am

While perusing the above discussion, my thoughts go back to Victor's mentioning racking. In home wine making, racking is siphoning the wine through a flexible tubing to another container, leaving sediment behind in the original container. If the end of the tubing is placed at the bottom of the receiving container, the wine is exposed to very little air. One could use this same technique to transfer wine from a bottle, thus removing the sediment without aeration. A simple apparatus could be constructed. Has anyone ever done or heard of such a thing?
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Hoke » Sun Jun 09, 2013 1:10 pm

Howie Hart wrote:While perusing the above discussion, my thoughts go back to Victor's mentioning racking. In home wine making, racking is siphoning the wine through a flexible tubing to another container, leaving sediment behind in the original container. If the end of the tubing is placed at the bottom of the receiving container, the wine is exposed to very little air. One could use this same technique to transfer wine from a bottle, thus removing the sediment without aeration. A simple apparatus could be constructed. Has anyone ever done or heard of such a thing?


Well, yeah, but not with wine. Had a juvenile delinquent fried who regularly siphoned gas from other people's tanks because he didn't have enough money to buy his own. Brings up an interesting visual though. 8)
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Thomas » Sun Jun 09, 2013 2:04 pm

Howie Hart wrote:While perusing the above discussion, my thoughts go back to Victor's mentioning racking. In home wine making, racking is siphoning the wine through a flexible tubing to another container, leaving sediment behind in the original container. If the end of the tubing is placed at the bottom of the receiving container, the wine is exposed to very little air. One could use this same technique to transfer wine from a bottle, thus removing the sediment without aeration. A simple apparatus could be constructed. Has anyone ever done or heard of such a thing?


Howie,

Siphoning from a 750ml by mouth is not as easy at it might seem. You either will have to lay down to do it or put the bottle high up on a shelf and use quite a long tube. What's more, by the time you get the suction going, you may have already come close to having moved the entire contents, which creates a distinct possibility of both drinking some of it before separating your mouth from the tube and spilling some of it as you separate and try to get the tube into the reciprocal.

I can see one of the Three Stooges making an episode out the process ;)
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Howie Hart » Sun Jun 09, 2013 2:49 pm

Thomas - I never mentioned vacuum. I'm thinking of a rubber wine bottle stopper with 2 holes. One hole contains a hard plastic tubing that could be moved up and down to adjust for the depth one wants to go. The other hole would go in the top of the bottle and have a fitting that could connect to something like the hand squeezy-type thing they have on blood pressure cuffs. Place the outlet end of the hose into a second container (decanter, carafe, bottle) and squeeze the bulb until the wine is transferred. The bottles would be side by side on the table.
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Mark Lipton » Mon Jun 10, 2013 11:53 am

Steve,
What strikes me about Peynaud's experiments is that he's collecting only two data points. Why sample the wine only at opening and then after several hours of exposure to air? What would it be like after 5 min? 10? 30? This, I think, is the point of "Audouzing" (slow oxidation) in which the bottle is opened and not decanted prior to service (Peynaud has measured the amount of oxygen ingress in an opened bottle and it's surprisingly low). In my own case, I never decant before trying the undecanted wine, and even then only decant a portion of the bottle at a time.

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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Mark Lipton » Mon Jun 10, 2013 11:57 am

Steve Slatcher wrote:Mark

But if the direction is mainly in the direction of longer tannin molecules, and it is generally the longer ones that are more astringent (as stated by Leigh Francis in Jamie's article), you would expect wines to get more astringent with age. I am not sure what, but SOMETHING is incorrect in the generalisations.


Leigh Francis's assertion that bigger tannin molecules are more astringent is at odds with what Peyraud found in his studies. In his books, he shows a gradual increase in astringency up to a point followed by a gradual decline thereafter. Getting back to Victor's point about racking, that's why some winemakers rack wines: to "tame" the young tannins in red wine.

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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Thomas » Mon Jun 10, 2013 12:36 pm

Mark Lipton wrote:


Getting back to Victor's point about racking, that's why some winemakers rack wines: to "tame" the young tannins in red wine.

Mark Lipton[/quote]

Why do winemakers rack white wine?

Racking always allows some oxygen in solution, which of course has an effect on aging and I suppose some winemakers do it for that reason alone, but the primary reason, I thought, was as an early clarifying method to get the wine off remaining sediment/lees.
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Steve Slatcher » Mon Jun 10, 2013 3:00 pm

Mark Lipton wrote:What strikes me about Peynaud's experiments is that he's collecting only two data points. Why sample the wine only at opening and then after several hours of exposure to air? What would it be like after 5 min? 10? 30?

Mark -But he didn't only use two times. Referring to his book, I wrote above "He used inert gas or different periods of exposure to air to control the level of dissolved oxygen".
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Re: Has the "breathing" obsession gone too far?

Postby Victorwine » Mon Jun 10, 2013 10:50 pm

Hi Howie,
I think you should patent it! I have seen vacuum assisted gravity siphons.

Mark Lipton wrote;
"In my own case, I never decant before trying the undecanted wine,...."

That should be rule #1 for decanting

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