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Decanting 101: How to Decant Wine

decanter-duck

How do you decant wine?

Decanting wine simply means pouring it from its bottle into some other container: a carafe, a decanter, even a water jug. Here are 5 easy steps to decant wine:

  1. To decant a bottle with sediment, first leave it upright for about a day to settle the sediment at the bottom. When you’re ready, make sure the decanter and the mouth of the bottle are clean.
  2. For the actual pouring process, stand a flashlight on the table so that it shines upwards—it gives stronger light than the classic lit candle. Place the decanter beside it and pour the wine so that the light shines through the neck of the bottle. This will allow you to see when the sediment is approaching, so that you can stop pouring then.
  3. Discard the sediment left in the bottle.
  4. Leave younger wines in the decanter for about an hour or two, and older wines anywhere from fifteen minutes to a half an hour.
  5. Taste the wine periodically to see how it’s opening up. If you decide that the wine has peaked, but the guests aren’t due for a while, drape a cloth over the top of the decanter to slow aeration.

decant-red-wine

Why decant wine?

Wines are decanted to get rid of sediment, the organic matter that naturally precipitates from the wine as it matures. The wines that throw the most sediment are mature, full-bodied red wines and vintage port.

The second reason to decant is to let the wine breathe so that it helps to warm up a wine that’s too cold, soften any harsh tannins and open up its aromatics.

This is especially true of rough-and-not-ready reds, particularly young, full-bodied ones: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Brunello, Barolo, Bordeaux, Rioja, Shiraz, Syrah and Northern Rhone wines.

Should some wines not be decanted?

Even decanting hardliners admit that some wines just aren’t made for airing out. Delicate red wines, such as Pinot Noir and gamay, aren’t usually decanted because their subtle aromas can quickly dissipate.

The same goes for zesty whites, such as Rieslings and Sauvignon Blanc: they can lose their crisp, refreshing edge.

Others are borderline: full-bodied whites, such as oakey chardonnays and some sweet wines, may benefit from decanting, depending on the style you like.

Which types of decanters are best?

You need a decanter large enough to hold the contents of a standard bottle, with some room at the top to allow the wine to breathe.

Decanters that maximize the wine-to-air surface ratio are best for young wines, while those with narrow necks that reduce air exposure are better for older wines that just need their sediment removed.

My personal favorite decanter is the “duck” style made by Riedel and others. It allows for lots of air exposure, but is very easy to pour and distributes the weight of the wine evenly. You also don’t get that awkward moment near the end of the wine when you have to tip a decanter like the one at the top of this post almost upside down to get the last drops of wine.

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Bordeaux the new Napa? Napa the new Bordeaux?

It’s no secret that while Bordeaux’s temperatures have been rising, California has been struggling for sunny days. I hadn’t thought much of France’s weather conditions, since we have been so focused on Napa given our recent trip until the topic was brought up by Juelle Fisher, Fisher Vineyards, at a recent tasting we had with them. The discussion was that if France endured warmer temperatures similar to typical Napa weather, and vice versa would we experience a stylistic flip-flop in Cabernet from the two regions?

As most of us know, there is a lot that influences the style and flavor of a finished wine: land (most importantly), grapes/clones, viticulture, winemaking, climate, and weather. So would a change in weather conditions change a wine so much that it actually reflects another region all together? I would venture to say no, but it would make an impact. How interesting would it be to see a fully-ripe, higher alcoholic Bordeaux and a restrained, complex and earthly Napa Valley Cabernet? The French (and more likely British) would surely freak out but it is full to imagine.

Yes, the weather situations in both regions are going to present growers and winemakers with problems they have only read about. Each region will have a different approach and different technologies to correct those problems, but I do expect that the 2010 and 2011 vintages from both regions will be a unique spin on the typical styles that is sure to interest the curious wine consumer.

Waiting on a Wine Angel

I really don’t mean to, but I rub off on people.  It might be my youth, insatiable personality, or the mullet I’m currently working on.  But I’m also pretty sure it has something to do with my wine knowledge.  I wrote last time about how I have a little wine box – chardonnay, cabernet, and pinot noir.  Unfortunately sometimes I think that my little box rubs off on my clients as well.  As I have started to venture outside the box, subsequently they do as well.

Recently, I suggested a bottle of Purple Angel to a group for dinner.  Purple Angel is a premium carmenere and petit verdot from Chile.  We also added some other bottles to the pile including Soda Canyon’s newly released 2009 Cabernet.  So what happened with my little experiment?  The Purple Angel was popped open at dinner to reveal a complex, but tightly wound wine.  Giving it even just an hour to breathe doesn’t do it justice.  So the group opened the Cabernet which paired wonderfully with the meal.  The Purple Angel was put aside for another day and time.

The next day, one member of the group tasted the Angel.  Better.  The day after, better still.  The wine continued to develop over the next three days and blew the client away – something he was not expecting from a carmenere or Chilean wine.

Lesson learned?  Drink what you like, but have the courage to explore once in a while.  Oh…and always bring a back up bottle to dinner, who knows what is going to happen!

I Will Not Drink Bad Wine, I Will Not Drink Bad Wine

cc: Cabernet

CC: Cabernet, I Will Not Drink Bad Wine

It’s not often in life that you find a bottle of wine that completely sums up your philosophy.  We were fortunate enough to be introduced to such a bottle by one of our customers (thank you Bill!) last week.  It’s called simply “I Will Not Drink Bad Wine.”  There you go, our philosophy on life (well at least how its related to wine).

I Will Not Drink Bad Wine is produced as both a Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay from Napa Valley & Monterey respectively and retails for $25 (Cab) and $17 (Chard).  Although the label is catching on its own, the best part about this wine is that it really is that good for the price point.  The proper name of the wine is CC:, but we like to call it by its nickname.

After a perusal of their website (which is fun just to visit, click here), I found out that the wine is produced by Betts & Scholl.  Betts & Scholl is a partnership project between Richard Betts, Master Sommelier & Wine Director at The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado (just one more reason we love Aspen so much) and Dennis Scholl, a wine collector and enthusiast who splits his time between Aspen and Miami (kind of like us!)  Betts & Scholl is dedicated to premium wines from only the best land and best fruit, their wines typically range from $40 – 70 per bottle.  So for them, CC: is kind of second label.  A second label we’d put up against any value wine in the store though…

The Chardonnay is crisp and clean with the characteristic fruit you should enjoy from a Chardonnay.  Produced entirely in stainless steel there is no oak or butter to get in the way.  The Cabernet has great fruit and a well balanced – soft but complex – finish.  CC: claims the fruit comes from a famous vineyard off of Route 29 in Napa Valley – Hall perhaps, Grgich Hills, Whitehall Lane, even Far Niente/Nickel & Nickel?  I guess we’ll never no.  But the most important part, is that this wine is definitely not bad.

CC: Chardonnay (I Will Not Drink Bad Wine)