Pinot Noir – To Decant or Not To Decant
Joe Davis of Arcadian Winery, in Santa Barbara County’s Santa Rita Hills AVA, is asked the question, When and why would you decant Pinot Noir? He first explains that Burgundy (which is of course made with Pinot Noir grapes) is never decanted, but that, even though Pinot Noir is a delicate varietal, part of the reason for that is tradition. He goes on to say that, in the case of Arcadian Winery, they do decant young Pinot. He then gives a detailed explication of the rationale for doing so, involving the chemistry of the wine–specifically the amount of dissolved oxygen in it. It seems that a wine that has less than one milligram of oxygen per liter will be closed and will not show much in the way of bouquet or flavor, but a wine that has 4 milligrams of dissolved oxygen per liter will be open and ready to imbibe. Which is all very interesting, but left me wondering how I would ever know how many milligrams of oxygen per liter a bottle of wine had in it.
Wes Hagen, the vineyard manager and winemaker for Clos Pepe, which is also in the Sta. Rita Hills appellation, says basically the same thing–that you shouldn’t decant a mature Pinot Noir, but it’s not necessarily a bad idea with a younger one–but does so in a much more practical and easy to understand way. Instead of digressing into chemistry, he gives us a basic rule of thumb: decant the two most recent vintages, but never, never decant a mature Pinot Noir.
So to sum up, the answer to the question, Pinot Noir, to decant or not to decant? depends on how young the wine is. A young Pinot can benefit from some aeration so it makes sense to decant it, but a mature Pinot Noir is too delicate for such rough treatment.
Speaking of Pinot Noir, the Santa Barbara Wine Country, with its beautiful scenery and many excellent wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms, is a wonderful place to go on a wine tasting tour and taste world-class Pinot, as well as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and lots of Rhone style varietals and blends. For tips on which are the best wineries to visit on a Santa Barbara wine tour, just click on the link.