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by Marty Cook
You may ask, “Why decant a wine?” and “Does decanting improve a wine?”
According to Wine Enthusiast, “There are two main reasons for decanting wine. The first is physical—to separate clarified wine from solids that have formed during aging. The second is that decanting accelerates the breathing process, which increases the wine’s aromas from natural fruit and oak, by allowing a few volatile substances to evaporate. Decanting also softens the taste of the tannins that cause harshness and astringency in young wines.”
Most red wines benefit from decanting, including less expensive wines to improve their flavor. All it takes is a suitable decanter, a bit of pre-planning, and some patience. In the remainder of this article, we will focus on decanting red wines.
Decanting times for red wines can range from approximately 30 minutes to more than 3 hours, depending on the grape variety and age of the wine. A list of decanting times for different types of red wines is shown below; and, since every bottle of wine is somewhat unique, check your wine periodically as you decant to determine if it meets your individual taste requirements. When the wine reaches a point where you find it rather pleasant, then it is time to drink it!
Most of us drink red wines that are five years old or less; so, the following rules-of-thumb apply to approximate timeframes when decanting most red wines.
Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot: 2 hours
Dão and Douro Reds: 2 – 3 hours
Grenache/Garnacha Blends: 1 hour
Malbec: 1 hour
Mourvèdre/Monastrell: 2 – 3 hours
Nebbiolo: 3+ hours
Petite Sirah: 2 hours
Pinot Noir: 30 minutes
Sangiovese: 2 hours
Syrah/Shiraz: 2 – 3 hours
Tempranillo: 2 hours
L V Port & Madeira: 2 hours
Zinfandel: 30 minutes
In the case of red wines with very high levels of tannin, consider decanting for more than three hours. Younger wines or wines with more astringency (tannin) will require a longer time for decanting. But, again, it is important to taste as you decant and avoid decanting a wine for too long. Keep in mind that there are limits to how much a wine will improve and decanting is a non-reversable process. Also, after a red wine is decanted, it has a limit to the length of time that it will remain palatable (generally 12 hours at best).
For best results with an old red wine in the 15 – 20 year range, it is advisable to decant immediately before serving, tasting as you go. And, avoid using wine aerators with old(er) wines.
by Marty Cook
One of the many wine-related organizations to which I belong does something that has become a regular feature in their bi-weekly meetings. They call this fun segment “Archeological Find”. Someone invariably comes across a bottle of wine of dubious age and integrity. Perhaps it was a bottle lurking in the shadows of their wine cellar, or maybe they inherited some long-forgotten bottle of wine in an estate settlement. Suffice it to say that the bottle is enshrouded in an air of speculation and curiosity over how the wine may have held up during its longer-than-anticipated slumber. They discuss what facts there are that may be known about the bottle, and then they carefully open the bottle and pour samples for any who wish (or, dare!) to taste the ancient find. Some of these finds are beyond recognition as a wine and more akin to salad dressing, while others are “meh”; but, there are also those discoveries that thrill and amaze!
I am sure that this has happened to most of us at least once. During the pandemic shutdown of this past March, many of us were busy drinking our wine cellars. I am willing to bet that more than a few rogue bottles of wine bubbled to the surface. Bottles that had once been laid down with the best of intentions and then forgotten in an accumulation of time and dust. Enter the essence of “Archeological Find”! Although we might not (yet) be able to gather as a group to hear and see the story and taste with trepidation, we can nonetheless share the episodic experience of our “mystery wine” discovery with a written and photographic account of that find and its sensory assessment.
So, get in touch with your inner Indiana Jones and do a little digging! Then, relate your story to us. How or where did you discover (or, re-discover) your Archeological Find, what was it that you found, and how well the wine held up! You can share your Archeological Find with us for reprint in an upcoming eNewsletter by sending the story and supporting photos to Dr-Jones@pawinesociety.com Happy hunting!
by Dave Williams
Life certainly seems to span a smaller circle, although no less rich. Changes have caused me to reflect on many things that never caught my attention before, because of busyness. At first it was annoying, but now I look upon it as an opportunity to explore and expand my awareness. To that point I have been investigating and drinking a number of new wines along with cooking some new recipes. White wines composed of some less familiar grapes have captured my interest: Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier. They offer a rich mouth feel and plenty of complexity to rival many reds. Most enjoyable with the smaller gatherings at my table with a very small circle of health-conscious friends.
I urge you to take a moment and reflect on those things big and small for which you can be thankful. Pause for a moment and celebrate the occasion with a new or favorite wine or recipe. Share the experience, because nothing is so valuable until shared with someone else.
I encourage everyone to take advantage of the virtual wine tastings (VWT) offered by PWS, hosted by Marty Cook, on Zoom. This is an opportunity every two weeks to open a bottle someone else is opening at the same time and share the experience. We’ve offered varietal-specific and region-specific events, and several VWTs have highlighted some of Pennsylvania’s top wineries. Please stay safe and healthy. Happy Holidays.