Decanting, what is it? Do I need to do it? What’s with that candle? There are two reasons to decant a wine. One is to filter out sediment in older wines. The other is to aerate the wine. If you read our column regularly you know that we’re big fans of unfiltered wines. We believe that these wines have more complex flavors. Moreover, most big red wines made today are so fully extracted and dark in color as to be opaque. You can’t see the sediment anyway. However, if you belong to the Frasier and Niles Crane School of Wine and want more clarity, here’s what you do to properly decant your wine.
You’ll need a carafe or decanter and a candle. The difference between a carafe and a decanter is that a decanter has a stopper. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. We got our carafe at the dollar store. Gently stand the bottle upright and let the sediment settle to the bottom for one to two days. Gently remove the foil from the neck of the bottle and then gently remove the cork. Hold the bottle with the label up. Light the candle and hold it 2 to 3 inches below the neck of the bottle. This illuminates the neck of the bottle so you can watch for sediment. Very gently pour the wine into the carafe or decanter allowing the sediment to remain in the bottle. The remaining wine and sediment can be used to make a reduction sauce.
There are valid reasons to filter a wine. It’s not uncommon for a cork to crumble and pieces to end up in the bottle. You don’t need fancy equipment for the job. Any funnel can be fitted with a coffee filter and will work just fine. Our fancy funnel is bent so that the wine is splashed against the side of the carafe as the wine goes through it. This helps to aerate the wine, which is a another good reason to decant a wine. Wine contains esters that are elements that contribute to the aromas and flavors of a wine. These esters are released by contact with air. Taking the cork out of a wine bottle and letting it sit doesn’t do much to help the wine breathe. The inside of the neck of the bottle is about the size of a dime and doesn’t expose much of the wine to air. A good way to expose the wine to a lot of air is pour it between containers. If you’re sloppy like us, red wine may splash all over you. You can wear a raincoat or use a gadget for this purpose. One is a venturi device, which you hold over the carafe or wine glass, and pour the wine through it. It works like a carburetor and mixes the air and wine. When you give certain wines a lot of air, esters are loosened so much that you can smell them from across the room.
We picked the wines below because not only are they very good but they’re all young and will really open up with aeration. These are all big and bold wines.
• Very highly recommended: Clio Bodegas El Nindo Jumilla 2010, Spain , about $42. Wow! This wine will rock your world. It’s a blend of 70 percent Mourvedre and 30 percent Cabernet Sauvignon from 70-year-old vines. It’s also a favorite of Robert Parker. It’s very dark in color, almost opaque, with a nose that just keeps giving. It’s got cascading flavors of blueberry, blackberry, earth, and leather. While not inexpensive it’s a bargain at this price.
Highly recommended: Brochelle Zinfandel 2010, Paso Robles, Calif., about $33. Dark in color with a nose that leaps out at you. It has layers of dark fruit flavors around a core of raspberry. It’s long with notes of chocolate, espresso and spice on the finish. Give it some air and the aromas will fill the room.
• Highly recommended: Earthquake Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Michael David Winery, Lodi, Calif., about $29. Like the name implies, this is a very big Cab. It greets you with a pronounced, complex nose. It’s well layered with flavors of cassis, blackberry and vanilla.
• Recommended: Altosur Malbec 2012, Mendoza, Argentina, about $15. This is a young wine and a bargain at this price. It’s very dark with bright fruit flavors of plums, dark cherries, berries, and spice. It has a lingering nose with floral notes.
Jim and Marie Oskins live on Lake Wylie. Email questions to winetime@ comporium.net.