Sally, Housten and I tasted an Australian cabernet for this experiment. Usual protocol: half the bottle in a decanter for 3 hours, half under argon gas in the bottle, each person presented with two glasses in random order. I explained that we were looking for the wine that had fewer primary and tertiary aromas and more fruit aromas, and that that wine should be the decanted one. All three of us got it right, and all three of us thought the difference was marked. There was some confusion initially about the instructions: Housten asked if the wine from the bottle should have a more complex aroma (I said yes) and Sally initially got the wines the wrong way around, but her description fit the correct identification. That is, she said the fruitier one was from the bottle.
This and the previous experiment stimulate a couple of thoughts. First, in the previous experiment we were drinking out of glasses that were not ideal for detecting aromas; they were too small so it was hard to swirl and release the aromas into the glass. Second, the instructions are clearly confusing. So for future experiments I should probably stick to my standard wine glasses. And I think I’ll dispense with the long complicated description and just ask two questions: which wine is fruitier and which wine has a more complex aroma? Then correlate the answers with the source.
Here is my tasting note on the wine.
Speaking of wine glasses, maybe that’s another experiment. Riedel has 14 variety-specific glasses in the Vinum series. I chose the Riesling/Zinfandel glass as my all-purpose glass on the recommendation of Making Sense of Wine, by Matt Kramer. It has the right size and shape to swirl and sniff without being absurdly bloated. I’ve always assumed that the classification of glass shapes was a bit like the proliferation of tartans in the 19th century; a fiction designed to sell more glasses (or wool). But I do happen to have some absurdly bloated chardonnay glasses that were sent me by mistake once. Not sure exactly how to manage a blind experiment here; get someone else to hold the glass?
I’m heading off to Italy for a month on Friday, and I don’t think it’s likely they will allow Coravin capsules on the plane, so this blog might become a little sporadic. I suppose I could run experiments comparing a decanter with an open bottle.