Category Archives: Decanting Wine

Aug 08 2011

The Pros and Cons of Decanting Wine

Posted on August 08, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

I recently discussed the growing trend of decanting Champagne – even the vintage, expensive stuff! (see The Benefits of Decanting Champagne! Cellarit Blog, 24 August 2011). And as a regular reader of The Wine Front reviews by Campbell Mattinson and Gary Walsh, I’ve noticed that they often come back to a wine a day or two after first opening it. In Mattinson’s review of the Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Cabernet Merlot 2004, for example, he commented that: “The longer it sat in the glass, the juicier and lengthier it became – and it drank better on day two.” (Wine of the Week: Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Cabernet Merlot 2004, Cellarit Blog, 25 August 2011).

Hard to believe then that the jury is still out on the value of decanting wine!

In fact, oenologist and Burgundy specialist Professor Emil Peynaud is completely against the idea. He argues that prolonged exposure to oxygen actually diffuses and dissipates more aroma compounds than it stimulates. Better just to pour the wine from the bottle directly into a wine glass and swirl before drinking. (The Australian Wine Encyclopedia by James Halliday, 2009: Hardie Grant Books)

In the days before wine was bottled without filtering or fining, decanting was useful because it helped to separate the clear wine from the sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Today, sedimentation can still be an issue for older bottles, but if the wine is very fragile too much exposure to oxygen may cause it to fall apart.

Decanting can soften the tannins in young tannic wines like cabernet sauvigon and shiraz, but how it actually does this is also a matter for debate! Oxidation may just alter the perception of sulfites or other compounds in the wine, making the tannins seem softer.

In any event, serving … Read the rest

Aug 08 2011

The Benefits of Decanting Champagne!

Posted on August 08, 2011 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Decant Champagne? Yes, it’s becoming popular!

According to Tom Stevenson, the Decanter World Wine Awards Regional Chair for Champagne, Parisian sommeliers  first started decanting demi-sec Champagne in order to enhance its sweetness by reducing the tactile impression of effervescence. Now the practice has spread across the globe and includes almost every type, style and age of Champagne! (Ask Decanter, Decanter September 2011).

Decanting can help tame the most aggressive fizz and soften the mousse of young, non-vintage Champagne. Aerating the wine also helps to release subtle aromas not always apparent in the first glass when the Champagne is directly poured from the bottle. Interestingly, renowned Champagne house Charles Heidsieck also advocates serving Champagne in white wine glasses instead of the more traditional slender flutes, as the wider surface area of the white wine glass enhances the aromatics. (Charles Heidsieck wants to burst your bubble – decanting Champagne, Dr Vino, 23 October 2009).

Typically the prized fine beading and soft mousse of fine Champagne are the result of extended times on lees and post-disgorgement ageing in the bottle – a practice normally reserved for only the best vintage Champagnes.

But according to Stevenson, even vintage Champagnes can be improved by decanting. He offers the following fun, if expensive, experiment:

Buy Dom Pérignon off the shelf and try it side-side with a bottle of the same vintage bought one or two years earlier and you will see that advantage that time brings in softening the mousse. Decant another bottle bought off the self and the result is somewhat between the two.

A couple of years ago, Riedel, in association with Charles Heidsieck, released a decanter specifically designed for decanting Champagne. Shaped like a lyre, it aerates the wine to release the aromas but preserves the bubbles. Ideally the Champagne … Read the rest