The first thing you notice when pulling Üllo’s (“oo-low”) Special Edition decanter from its sleek, glyph-heavy packaging containing the entire purifying system? The beautiful design. No doubt inspired by mid-20th-century Scandinavian designers, it is worth taking a few moments to watch how the curved lines overlap and perform optical illusions on its neck and base. While the original decanter (priced at $99) is also just as worthy of admiration, the attention to detail on display here provides equal functionality: its intended purpose (to decant and store wine) and as a work of decorative art when not in use. The site’s description remarks that “each piece is uniquely handcrafted in lead-free crystal glass by artisan glassblowers”. While I take no umbrage with the assertion, it would be interesting to see the glassblowers in action, making these decanters somewhere on their site via an embedded video. Whether one opts for the special edition or traditional product line, they’re getting a decanter with carefully considered, classic design choices.
Away from the aesthetics and form, let’s move on to the functionality of the purifying system, which is designed to strip sulfites from your wine. A cursory search on any engine will yield more argumentative essays both for and against the process and probably more than one would ever likely need to read, and I know that Christopher has offered his skepticism on the efficacy of both sulfite removers and aerators in the past. My intention with this review is not to re-litigate, offer a counterargument, or start an elongated internet brawl involving a litany of angry folks in the comments section. Rather, I’m taking this as an opportunity to do some modest product testing, and report results as directly and honest as possible.
My testing process was (somewhat) simple: Decanting three different bottles with which I have more than a passing familiarity – a Malbec, a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Pinot Noir – which are “everyday” wines around our house. I decanted all in our usual decanters (small for pinot noir, medium for the malbec, and large for the Cabernet) and did a separate decant in the Üllo for 45 to 60 minutes, all in a climate-controlled room free from odors as much as possible, and the appropriate wine glasses. All glassware was cleaned by hand using purified water. The finished, decanted wines were tasted side by side.
Üllo’s system is quite user-friendly and the directions are straightforward. Setup time was next to nothing and easy to conduct, and a nod of the cap should go towards Üllo’s production and design teams for making things so easy. The one note of caution I would offer and put under careful contemplation for those considering a purchase relates to the sulfite-capturing filters. Üllo offers their Selective Sulfite filters in various potencies – both for full-bottle and single glass – and this can incur costs of anywhere from $25 to $50, depending on filter selection and whether the user selects a single purchase or a recurring subscription. It’s an expense, but one worth considering if you’re electing to use a sulfite extraction process.
Wine #1: 2020 La Posta Pizzella Malbec – All three of you who follow my wine reviews know that I love this Malbec and rated it as a best-value buy. It’s my usual standby to purchase as a gift for other folks, and I regularly suggest it as an entry point for exploration. Üllo stripped this Uco of a few major characteristics: gone were the big oak and spice notes on the nose. This may be a bonus for some who prefer their Malbec on the fruit-forward side, as Üllo did bring to the forefront that flavor profile. And while there was less acidity, the finish lasted slightly longer.
Wine #2: 2018 Josh Cellars Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast – I was recently alerted to this high-quality Pinot Noir by a fellow Robert who writes for this site (who has way more than three readers), and we’ve been enjoying this at home as the winter transitions to spring. Üllo’s process kept the flavor profile almost the same here: lots of big dark fruit notes, some spice on the palate with a touch of vanilla. However, once again, there was less acidity and the finish was not as long as with a traditional decanter. It also amplified the black cherry influence, giving the palate a jammy feeling.
Wine #3: 2018 Angela Vineyards Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton – Another recent favorite reviewed this spring. On its own, this a wine that is very fruit forward throughout, but also has enjoyable complexity and balance provided by secondary notes of cocoa powder, clove, and tobacco leaf. Put through the Üllo, these all remained present but were taken down in the mix while the cherry and cranberry notes were amplified quite significantly. Not as much oak to be found, and once again the finish is diminished.
Overall, brighter flavors, less acidity, and shorter finishes when compared to a straightforward pour into a decanter. I also utilized the Üllo system with another bottle of Cabernet Franc which, for some reason, always tends to give me a mild next-day headache. I’m not sure if this was a placebo effect, but whatever it was, this side effect wasn’t present, and I’m thankful something clicked.
In the end, to decant and purify or pour straight from the bottle is a choice based on your personal preferences. But if using a system is something you opt for, especially if removing sulfites or allergens is your primary reason for doing so, Üllo’s offerings check all the right boxes. Especially with such a delightful design.