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Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

The question

If you decant a newer bottle of wine for a period of hours, would it naturally equate to years of age? Would there be a formula for this?

The answer

Maybe not years, but in some cases you can improve the flavours by a few dollars. By pouring a bottle into a decanter (or any jug you may have on hand), you're aerating the wine, or exposing it to oxygen. This helps soften astringency and amplify fruitiness. Commonly, this is done with precious older wines, though often for a different reason. Fine old wines tend to contain gritty sediment, which has precipitated out of solution over time. Decanting permits you to carefully pour off most of the liquid while keeping the sediment at the bottom of the bottle.

The bigger bonus lies in that aeration. Decanting, as you imply, in a sense accelerates the aging process, mimicking the oxygen exposure that occurs slowly through the pores of the cork over years and can render the wine softer (especially if it's a tannic red) and more complex. So, it's often beneficial to decant a young wine.

I'm not aware of any formula worked out by scientists that would translate decanting minutes or hours into equivalent years of cellaring. In any case, it would depend on the style of wine. Lighter and less tannic reds, such as pinot noir, take less time to "evolve" in the decanter than, say, full-bodied, astringent wines, such as cabernet sauvignon. It also depends on the producer and the region where the wine is made. Generally speaking, expensive, classic reds such as top-flight Bordeaux would need longer time than softer New World reds from California or Australia to come into their own.

The Flavour Principle by Lucy Waverman and Beppi Crosariol took home top prize last year for best general English cookbook at the Taste Canada Food Writing Awards. Published by HarperCollins.

E-mail your wine and spirits questions to Beppi Crosariol. Look for answers to select questions to appear in the Wine & Spirits newsletter and on The Globe and Mail website.