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wrcstl

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Policy change in decanting wines

by wrcstl » Wed Aug 23, 2006 10:31 am

In the past I have decanted wines with lots of known sediment and splash decanted young wines in an attempt to coax complexity over youth, leaving most wines to be drank directly from the bottle. Recently I have had several wines that have taken up to 45 minutes to open up and reveal their real nature. On Monday night I opened an '82 La Tour Haut Brion because I thought it may be in danger decline. The first sip was drinkable but had stale oxidized notes, something you drink but not worth mentioning. I grilled dinner and poured the wine into some large glasses and things seemed to improve. After 1 hour and on the second half of the bottle the wine really began to sing, no oxidized notes and great old Bordeaux fruit, a quite memorable wine. Have had this same experience with some recent '75's and '78's. I have now developed a decanting formula and divide the wines into three groups by age, 2-10years, 10-30 years and 30+ years.

2-10 years: I splash decant big wines that should probably not be drank as early as I serving and will improve with age, the remaining is served right out of the bottle. As an example I do not decant most CC or PN but will decant '01 Rhones and Cabs.

10-30 years: The older of this group I will decant because they need time in air to open and develop. I will also decant any with visible sediment. Will still tend to drink the non cab based wines direct from the bottle.

30+ years: This is the tough one. The problem is that really old wines can fall apart quickly but many throw off lots of sediment. I tend to not decant, pour carefully and let any development happen in the glass. If I decant the wine it is just before pouring in the glasses.

I am thowing this out for comment as it is a work in process. I also admit most of my experience with wines over 15 years of age is with Bordeaux. Any comments? Maybe we can develop a WLDG decanting policy!
Walt
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OW Holmes

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Re: Policy change in decanting wines

by OW Holmes » Wed Aug 23, 2006 1:15 pm

I usually don't decant much of anything, preferring the "slow oxygenation" method advocated by Francois for older wines, which I think works well for younger wines too.
For wines I know need to open up, I open the bottle as much as 24 hours in advance, but usually much less. I pour out enough so that the level in the bottle is below the shoulder. I smell the part that I poured out, even taste it from a separate glass sometimes in the name of science. If it is open, I put the cork back in. If it is not, I leave it sit. I check it a couple of hours before it will be served. If it is open then, I put the cork in. If it is still closed, I double decant. I rarely need to do this. If I have this rare occurance, I will leave the rest of the stash down for a few years, or greatly increase the length of the process the following time.
Of course, there are some wines that I quickly learned need no decanting, even young wines.
Mostly I use the decanter when the slow in-bottle method doesn't work, or there is so much sediment that I have to decant.
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Re: Policy change in decanting wines

by James Roscoe » Wed Aug 23, 2006 1:21 pm

wrcstl wrote:I am thowing this out for comment as it is a work in process. I also admit most of my experience with wines over 15 years of age is with Bordeaux. Any comments? Maybe we can develop a WLDG decanting policy!
Walt


Walt, Thanks for posting this. I am really a relative newbie to the wine scene and I don't quite understand the whole decanting theory. I read all the different opinions and they are quite confusing. I assume people here have their own ideas too.

As most of my wine is being drunk way too young, I almost always decant (reds). I have never decanted a white, nor has the thought crossed my mind. Some guidelines (policy seems too formal) would be very helpful to this geek wannabe.
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Re: Policy change in decanting wines

by wrcstl » Wed Aug 23, 2006 1:30 pm

James Roscoe wrote: I have never decanted a white, nor has the thought crossed my mind.


James,
Never thought of decantinga white although I am sure someone may have a reason. This thought came up because of the length of time is takes some great "older wines" to open up. Guess if you were stuffed in a bottle for 25 years you may take a while to wake upalso. It just hit me when tasting the '82 La Tour Haut Brion how long it took to open. As OW says, nothing wrong with not decanting wines like this but be careful to let it develop for quite a while in the glass. This is one problem with large tastings and it has been repeated many times on this forum. You get one 1 1/2 oz pour and are supposed to form an opinion. Did you get it before it opened? After it faded? Somewhere in the middle? More and more I am interested in fewer wines sampled over a longer time period.
Walt
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Brian K Miller

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Re: Policy change in decanting wines

by Brian K Miller » Fri Aug 25, 2006 5:16 pm

Hello, brand new poster and pretty new to nice wine drinking. This was helpful to me, as well. I'm happy to find a wine forum that is so experienced and knowledgeable.

I am having an Italian-themed wine party, with barolos, brunellos, and barbarescos. I know I am opening them very, very young (1998 and 2001), but I have had the one 2001 (Mauro Segaste Barolo) and while a tannic monster it was still delicious to my (developing) tastes, and I have hopes for the others, as well (the Barbaresco at the wine shop I tried was very young but still delicious, too). Heck, I LIKE tannins :oops:


I was planning to open up the bottles well before hand and decant the barolos. What does the term "splash decant" mean? I assume it means you rather aggressively pour the wine into the decanter to stir it up and air it out?

Thanks, and I hope to learn a lot from this forum!
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Re: Policy change in decanting wines

by wrcstl » Fri Aug 25, 2006 6:11 pm

Welcome Brian, also good to see a new face. Splash decant is exactly what you mention. A very young wine, say 1-2 years old, is many times just tipped over with the neck in the decanter and allowed to splash it full. In your instance I would decant all of the wines but probably not splash decant a '98 or '99. They are quite young and need to have air to open but may have some sediment and splash decanting may upset that. You can open the bottles and not decant them several hours early but that does not accomplish much as the air space is only the area of the neck. I would decant them all. Another trick, if you are short decanters is to decant a wine and then pour it back into the bottle and leave it open, say 1-2 hours before the tasting. This eliminates the need for as many decanters and gets some air to the wine poured back in the bottle. Good luck and post some TNs after your tasting.
Walt
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Hoke

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Re: Policy change in decanting wines

by Hoke » Fri Aug 25, 2006 6:31 pm

James Roscoe wrote:

I have never decanted a white, nor has the thought crossed my mind.


James,
Never thought of decantinga white although I am sure someone may have a reason


Actually the new school sommeliers are promoting the decanting of all wines as a matter of course. There are quite a few restaurants that make a big deal of the policy now.

The rationale is that it is both a nice ceremony (and it is) and that it is good for the wine.

Even for white wines, there can be some initial funkiness when you first open a bottle. Sometimes it's just a reductive note that will blow off with decanting. Even if that's not present, the argument goes, it's good to let the wine emerge and aerate a bit too release it's aromatics.

For some of the more massive white wines, the ones designed to age and develop, decanting is a good idea anyway. Sure gets the aromatics out there "on the table", so to speak.

While I've never felt that it's absolutely necessary to decant all wines, and I certainly don't do so at my house, I'm not opposed to it either. And in a restaurant, if you're paying the extra money and you enjoy ceremony, that's a good ceremony to have.

In many of the restaurants that have the decanting policy, they do it even for wines by the glass: you get the glass, accompanied by a small carafe of wine.

Plus, with all the new decanters out there in the market, such as the light, delicate ones from Riedel, decanters look very stylish on the table.

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