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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Suppose a certain wine takes, say, five years of bottle aging to reach its peak. For that same wine to reach its best faster, how many hours should I aerate it in a decanter? In other words, how much time in the decanter equals one year in the bottle? Is it possible to establish such equivalence?

—Calide G., Brazil

Dear Calide,

The short answer is no, there is no such formula as you’re suggesting. But I want to just back up and be clear that when a wine is showing its “best” will depend not only on the wine and how it was cared for as it aged, but also on the person drinking the wine. If you’re not aging your wine, you’re not doing anything wrong. Plenty of people enjoy drinking wine upon release, and most wines are ready to drink without aging.

Now, back to your question. A wine can become more expressive and aromatic both with aging and with decanting. But these two processes are not interchangeable with each other.

As a wine ages, phenolic compounds link together and drop out of suspension, primary flavors fade, and secondary or tertiary flavors come to the forefront. But decanting only integrates oxygen into a wine, triggering oxidation and a little bit of evaporation. The effect of decanting cannot replicate the effect of aging.

—Dr. Vinny

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