Regardless of color or style, the majority of wine for sale in our wine shop does not require decanting. In general, if it follows the 3F principle (Fun, Frilly, and Fruity) or if it comes in a box, tin can, tetra-pack, or with a lizard or fuzzy Koala on the label, don’t insult yourself or anyone else by suggesting that it will improve with some breathing time!!! It will not. Decanting is normally reserved for full-bodied red wines such as vintage port, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, and the big Italians like Amarone, Barolo, and Brunello.Although it is enjoyable to do, there is no real secret to mastering the act of decanting vintage wine.
A great number of people feel more comfortable using some kind of filter such as a funnel, or others things such a coffee filter paper. However if the bottle of wine has been properly prepared and addressed, such items are not always necessary!
If using a filter, most of us tend to pour the entire contents of the bottle into the decanter – assuming that all the deposit will be detached. At times the sediment in a bottle can be quite fine and passes through some filters leaving the wine somewhat cloudy. Decanting technique is more a question of style than anything else and you can opt for the quick, easy, and failsafe method of simply pouring the wine through a filter, or perhaps the more formal and traditional practice of decanting by candlelight. For this reason we prefer the following steps.
1. A day before you intend to decant, place your bottle of Vintage wine upright. This will allow any loose sediment to fall to the bottom of the bottle.
2. Obtain a clean, odorless vessel. A wine decanter is perfect. Alternatively you could decant into another container, rinse out your bottle and return the wine to the bottle.
3. When pouring the wine into the container it is important where you hold the bottle. When the wine has been lying in our cellars at Mel and Rose, we mark the uppermost side of the bottle at the bottom with a white mark, so-called the splash mark. The reason for doing this is that over the years sediment will have gathered in the bottle and settled on the lower side. Some of this sediment can stick to the glass so that if not careful when decanting, air bubbles can free this material and it will ruin the effect of your having stood the bottle upright for a day.
As for a particular style of decanter, the possibilities are endless and you can really let your creativity run wild here. A perfectly suitable glass decanter will cost around $10 or run you in excess of $500 for something unusual – they do exactly the same thing. Just make sure it fits in Grandma’s old china cabinet before you fork out the cash.
4. To avoid the risk of this happening, when decanting, always place your hand on the same side of the bottle as the splash mark. In this way, any sediment stuck to the side of the bottle is below the wine and away from air bubbles entering the bottle as you pour.
5. If the splash mark has been wiped off, which is why at Mel and Rose we will always put the front label exactly above the splash mark. In this way all you need to remember is that when you pour, have the label in the palm of your hand.
6. Now you must hold your decanter so that when you pour the wine you can see it briefly passing over the neck area of the decanter. This is because, as you pour with your steady hand, you are looking for signs of the deposit starting to come through. Stop as soon as the sediment starts to enter the decanter.
7. You will need a light background to see the sediment clearly. In the past, candles have been used for this.
8. Pour in one steady movement. Stopping part way through will stir up the sediment and you will need a filter from there on in.
9. We suggest you decant before the meal, you are likely to have a steadier hand and it will give all but the very oldest vintages the required time to breathe.
10. Finally, do not throw away the sediment. It is very nutritious and excellent in soups, sauces and gravy. You can freeze them in freezer ice cube bags.
It seems a long explanation, but once understood and practiced you’ll soon be a master.
Browse our Vintage wine selection.