Grapevine Archive for decanting
Of the many questions our Member Services team get asked, at this time of year, how to decant is one of the more popular. There are two reasons to decant – to remove the deposit (or sediment) from older bottles and vintage port and to aerate the wine. We publish tips on decanting on our Serving Wine page, along with answers to other frequently asked questions, but we thought that we would share the tips below from fellow member David Richards who feels that the whole process is rather over complicated by some. His approach is sound and one that we sometimes adopt (tights are often used instead of filters), what’s critical, of course, is that everything is clean!
Having just bought a couple of cases of The Society’s Côtes-du-Rhône containing tartrate crystals and with the festive season fast approaching, I thought I’d share a tip that never fails. When decanting a wine, there is no need for silver funnels, candles, torches, white backgrounds or whatever other mystical practices you may have read about. All you need is a kitchen-grade plastic funnel and a coffee filter paper of suitable proportions, plus a decanter, of course. No need to stand the bottle upright overnight either.
Pop the funnel into the neck of the decanter, fold the bottom and side of the filter paper over and place it into the funnel, then simply remove the cork and pour the whole thing into the funnel. You may need to do this in two or three stages to allow the wine to run through. The resultant liquid will be crystal clear, I promise you.
If you are at all nervous when you see the sediment pouring out of the bottle, you can transfer the funnel to a tumbler of sufficient height and allow the final dregs to drain into that, but do not fear, it will be just as clear as the rest. This trick works equally well on a cheap Côtes-du-Rhône or an £80 bottle of port. I have done both. And if you get caught by surprise by a bottle that delivers sediment into your glass when you weren’t expecting it, simply set up the equipment and pour everything through the filter, including what was in the glass. It works a treat and your meal (and drinking pleasure) will barely be interrupted. Simples! Go on, give it a try.
‘Daddy, why are you opening wine in the morning?’ asked my daughter last Sunday.
I explained to her that the wine needed to breathe.
‘It’s not an animal,’ was her reply.
Having banished my daughter to her bedroom for her insolence, I sampled the wine (a claret) before pouring it into the decanter. From a quality point of view, it was absolutely fine, but it lacked depth and fruit.
We had it that evening with a slow-roasted leg of lamb. This classic combination was a perfect match and the wine tasted superb, a completely different beast differing from my taste that morning. It had opened up beautifully and was at a temperature that helped it show its true potential.
I explained this transformation to my dinner guests, who were not as enthused as I was. As I transformed into full wine-adviser mode, I questioned whether they would consider drinking anything other than hot tea. ‘No,’ was the emphatic reply.
‘How about warm orange juice?’
Again a strong negative response was received.
I have no doubt many of us are versed with the above but it never ceases to amaze me how a wine can taste so different depending on how and when it is served.
For me, a little patience and preparation go a long way to increasing the already great pleasure I receive from wine.
You may also like to read my colleague Stephanie Searle’s post on the subject of decanting from a couple of years ago. Some of the wines, of course, are now out of stock, but the principles remain the same. Happy drinking!
…and Members attending the Decanting Workshop held at The Wine Society?s Stevenage HQ earlier this month were keen to find out the answer!
So what is decanting? To quote from Jancis Robinson?s Wine Companion, decanting is ‘an optional and controversial step in serving wine, involving pouring wine out of its bottle and into another container called a decanter’. Simple in its explanation, no doubt, but by no means an exact science when it comes to tasting and enjoying the results.Like many issues in the wine world, there is never a definitive ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when it comes to decanting wine. We all like to enjoy our wines when they are tasting at their optimum best, and for many the process of decanting is the only way to achieve this. Others are less convinced of the benefits that decanting offers.
The workshop got underway with The Society’s Head of Tastings & Events, Ewan Murray, introducing the concept, history and evolution of decanting and decanters, and why and when people choose to decant their wines (usually for the removal of sediment and/or aeration). Then without further ado, the process of tasting commenced with members comparing and contrasting five pairs (and one trio) of identical wines ? one that was served straight from bottle and the other/s which had been decanted at a given point prior to being served.
As expected, the workshop threw up some surprises for many. Most were intrigued to see The Society’s Exhibition Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu, Brocard, 2009 in the line-up of candidates for decanting. Comparing a sample served straight from the bottle with another that had been decanted an hour previously, there was a very positive response to the decanted wine which had opened up to reveal a flavoursome minerality supporting the delicate aromas of lemon and citrus. In comparison, the Chablis served at optimum temperature straight from the bottle was felt to be more closed and the minerality failed to shine through to the same extent. The member verdict was a resounding 95% to 5% in favour of the decanted wine.
Next up for comparison was Koyle Reserva Carmenère, 2010 from Chile. The sample served straight from the bottle provided a real ‘oomph’ in the mouth with an intense spicy nose, hints of black pepper and cloves, yet with a full fresh palate. The decanted (for two hours) Koyle was considered even better – 90% preferred it, with some members describing it as smelling like a young Bordeaux. Aeration had subtly softened the tannins, but the boldness of the flavour remained.
Château Langoa-Barton, 1998 was an interesting wine to compare. At 14 years old, this teenager burst forth from the bottle with wonderful focussed blackberry aromas and soft (but not overbearing) tannins supported by richness and length. Its counterpart, that had been decanted two hours previously, proved a disappointment for most. It was definitely flatter as the aromas had largely dispersed and the range of flavours picked up by the nose had diminished. Members were generally surprised by this result and raised the question about the decanting of Claret. Perhaps the best course of action for this wine would have been to do one of two things – either decant immediately (no more than half an hour) before serving to allow the removal of sediment and slight aeration, or not to decant at all but pour carefully from the bottle. Member verdict was 90% to 10% in favour of the carefully poured Claret straight from the bottle.
Heading for Australia, the next pair up for comparison was d’Arenberg’s Footbolt Shiraz, 2007. A chunky, generous shiraz with stacks of sweet, berry fruit, this wine was enjoyed when served straight from the bottle but was considered far superior when decanted for two hours. The flavours shone through with both elegance and finesse and members voted 80% to 20% in favour of the decanted wine.
After leaving Australia we headed for Italy and for three examples of Gianni Brunelli, Brunello di Montalcino, 2004 (sold out, though other vintages available). A definite food wine and, according to Ewan, a perfect wine match for wild boar! Pig aside, a pleasing, perfumed aroma was present in all three examples of this wine. Tasting a sample straight from the bottle, there were signs of fruit, but the general consensus was that it was quite ‘closed’ and definitely too tannic for most. The example which had been decanted three hours previously had opened up quite nicely and presented with more intensity of fruit, especially the flavour of dark, bitter cherries. It was, however, the sample that had been decanted for eighteen hours that really stole the show. Members found it far more ‘all encompassing’ with lasting savoury notes and decidedly superior to the other two samples. It won the member vote with 65% preferring it compared to 35% liking the wine that had been decanted for three hours. Nobody chose the sample which was tried after being poured straight from the bottle.
Last, but not least, The Society’s Exhibition Crusted Port, bottled 2006, was put to the test. The Port served straight from the bottle was tasted alongside a sample which had been decanted 2 hours previously. Interestingly, the difference between these two examples in both nose and taste, was minimal. Both examples showed well, exuding plump, ripe, juicy raisin flavours that were savoured for long after the initial swallow. Unfortunately though, with crusted Port comes the sediment – often thick sediment which nobody really wants to taste. The unanimous verdict then was to definitely decant the Port. A very sensible decision.
Tastings & Events
Yesterday Pierre Mansour (@pierremansour) and I (@Ewbz) hosted a virtual question time on Twitter (@TheWineSociety) as an experiment as we dip our toe a little further into the water of social media. A small-but-perfectly-formed band of members took part under the hashtag #twsqt. Here are the Qs and the As:
@robjfreeman If in doubt, always decant?
@TheWineSociety ‘Yes!’ Most wines improve with aeration, especially younger reds. As @JancisRobinson says: ‘decant splashily!’ …
@TheWineSociety …although be wary of older, more fragile wines. If needed, decant immediately before drinking or pour carefully.
@thirstforwine What wine for a Xmas 4-bird roast? (Turkey, Goose, Duck, Pheasant)
@TheWineSociety C’neuf-du-Pape is our recco but with so many flavours esp. trimmings choose something you know your guests will enjoy.
@thirstforwine Interesting – was thinking NZ PN. Thoughts?
@TheWineSociety NZ pinot was what @pierremansour drank with last year’s Christmas dinner! Anything with a bit of sweet ripe fruit.
@skifamille Am I right in thinking 15/12 is last order date for Christmas?
@TheWineSociety To guarantee pre-Christmas delivery, order pre-midnight Thu 15/12.
@TopTungston Wondering when the Tollot-Beaut Chorey-lès-Beaune 2005 is best to drink. Opening offer says best by 2012. Please advise.
@TheWineSociety Drinking well now. 05 vintage long-lasting but Chorey a modest appellation. For even softer and gamier hold for 2-3 years.
@TopTungston Also please could you tell me is the 06 Katnook estate Cab Sauv drinking ok right now? Thank you.
@TheWineSociety Absolutely delicious right now. Very elegant. Do decant 1 hour before.
@Theshrubb Is my 2001 Langoa Barton ready for this Christmas or should I leave it for a few more?
@TheWineSociety Drank this at a recent Montreuil dinner (Sep). Just hitting stride now. Pop the cork & enjoy, or wait up to another 8 years.
@PollyEJHolidays You focus a lot on great Portuguese wines, but are there any you’d recommend from the Algarve for Christmas?
@TheWineSociety While we have loads of Portuguese in our current offer none are from Algarve. Sorry.
So that’s it from Stevenage for this week. Next time we’ll be in Stevenage, and the time after that in … er … Stevenage! Good night.