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THE QUESTION

I just watched the videos from Beppi and really enjoyed both the decanting and serving wine at home. My question is, when chilling, should you already have decanted a red wine; i.e., should I pour my pinot noir into a decanter first and let it sit out for an hour or two before I place in the fridge for 10 minutes?

THE ANSWER

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Odd as that crystal decanter may look in your fridge next to the Hellman's, go for it.

As you note, I've suggested in the past that red wine generally tastes better when slightly chilled. Heat can exacerbate wine's harsh components, and Canadian room temperature is too toasty for wine. It depends on the grape variety, to be sure. Lighter-bodied reds, such as gamay, dolcetto and pinot noir, can benefit with up to 30 minutes in the Frigidaire. Cold enhances the palate's sensitivity to acidity, so you're bolstering a cherished feature of many such wines. Fuller-bodied reds, such as cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, tend to improve with a 15-minute chill.

Decanting, as you also seem to have gathered, is another way to improve flavour without forking out big money. By decanting wine into a pitcher, you're exposing it to air, softening the astringent tannins and enhancing fruity bouquet. It stands to reason that if you chill the bottle first and let it sit around in a decanter for an hour or more prior to serving, you're losing the chill, rendering the fridge exercise worthless.

Here's what I'd do: Decant the wine and let it sit on the counter until 15 to 30 minutes before serving; then place it in the fridge till dinner's ready. There's a caveat here. Decanters are just fancy crystal pitchers shaped with a wide bowl to maximize the fluid's surface area (and thus exposure to air). They tend to have open spouts. That means your wine will be vulnerable to fridge odours. I don't know about you, but I'm not always prompt in replacing that box of baking soda every month or two (or is it six?). Tear off a small sheet of plastic wrap and stretch it over the decanter's spout to form a seal before you place it in the fridge. Make sense?

I suspect there's a key reason few people place decanters in the fridge: space. If you can't find enough room next to the Hellman's and yesterday's Chinese takeout, consider freeing up more rack space by removing that old box of Arm & Hammer; it's probably stale anyway.



Have a wine question?

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.

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