Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! Have you ever considered using a decanter when drinking your wine? Does using a decanter actually have any effect on the flavor of wine or is it just a way for people to feel fancy? And finally, what is a decanter? Let’s take a look and attempt to answer these often-asked wine questions.

To begin, a decanter is a container of almost any shape or material that can hold a liquid when poured from a bottle. Examples include jugs, jars, carafes and even other wine bottles. The purpose of pouring the liquid from the bottle to another container is to allow the wine to breathe or open up.

A secondary function of the decanter is to separate the sediment in the wine from the liquid portion in order to prevent those chunks of sediment from ending up in the glass. This is more important for older wines, which tend to collect sediment as opposed to new or young wines which often do not.

The process of decanting is quite simple: let the bottle you want to decant stand up straight for at least 1 hour and resist the temptation to move the bottle around as the sediment can easily mix with the wine instead of settling. Get your container/decanter ready (it should be clean) and pour the wine into the decanter.

Care and attention should be given to mature wines (pour carefully) and delicate wines with intricate flavors should only be allowed to breathe in the decanter for a short time since they can quickly lose their intensity. Young, bold or powerful wines can be poured quickly but watch for the sediment which you should see gathering near the base of the neck (if there is any). If the sediment becomes noticeable, stop pouring the wine. If you absolutely have to get those last drops from the bottle, a cheesecloth will help filter any remaining sediment.

This all sounds like quite the process and the big question becomes: is decanting worth the effort or is it all for show? The answer may depend on the person but most sommeliers agree that decanting allows oxygen to agitate wine the quickest and allows the fruity and complex flavors of the wine to come forward sooner. It also allows hydrogen sulfide to evaporate and removes most side effects of reduction from the wine.

I conducted an experiment this week and tasted both VQA wines before and after decanting. Each wine was poured and quickly tasted and then also poured into a decanter to breathe for at least an hour. What I noticed was that the intensity of the fruit notes was more noticeable in the decanted wine and the more complex notes of earth, tobacco and spice were easier to detect.

Some like to keep their spirits in a decanter but in my opinion, this is more for show when compared to wine. Spirits can oxidize and unless you are sharing your spirits with others or are able to finish the container quickly, you are doing a disservice to the spirit by allowing it to breathe too much, thus losing flavor.

Almost every wine can benefit from decanting but it is most useful with red wines or high-quality wines you’d like to drink sooner. It’s also a useful technique when guests stop by and you want that wine ready to go as soon as possible.

Try decanting and see if it works for you. Remember, a decanter can be virtually any container so even if you only have a jam jar, it will still do the job! Here are my wine picks of the week!

C. C. Jentsch Cellars The Chase 2013: (VQA Okanagan Valley, Canada). Dry red, deep garnet and ruby color. Heavy fading and bricking noticeable at the edge. The scent from this wine is concentrated and intense with ripe figs, blackberry jam, mocha/coffee, barnyard funk, cherry balsamic and freshly tilled earth. The intensity is lighter on the palate but with time, fruity flavors of dark cherry, blackberry and chopped walnuts build into medium-plus intensity. Body is medium-plus and acidity is medium-plus. Dried strawberry, underbrush, and black currants lead to a long savory finish filled with earthy/salty delights. Mushroom, soya sauce and toasted oak blend with concentrated dark fruits and hints of mocha. Given time to breathe, this wine transforms in the glass. Very good! $45, 13.9% ABV

Dirty Laundry Bordello 2012: (VQA Okanagan Valley, Canada). Dry red, deep ruby with garnet bricking. The bouquet is subtle at first and features a whisp of smoke, sweet tobacco leaves, cooked raspberry and blackberry with a hint of mineral peeking through. To the taste, this red brings a medium-plus intense rush of blackberry, brambleberry, plums and herbal sage with a backing of cedar, cocoa and black licorice. The spice and earthy tones are well-balanced and the fruit is restrained but flavorful. Medium-plus body adds weight while medium acidity and medium-plus tannins give the wine a mellow but structured mouthfeel. The earthy/smoky fruit notes are perfect flavors to pair with charcuterie or earthy cigars like the Magno maduro cigar from Nicaragua (around $5 per cigar for the Rothschild size). Drink now or within a couple of years. Very good! $65, 13.7% ABV

Ardbeg Wee Beastie 5 Year Old Single Malt Scotch: (Islay, Scotland). Smoky Scotch with a medium-gold color. The nose is wild and filled with the scents of a working dockyard near the salty sea. Machine oil, tangy iodine, Fisherman’s Friend lozenges, smoked leather, oiled malt, sea salt and peaty earth rise from the glass. The palate is intense and complex with salty/savory flavors of charred peanut shell mixed with chili oil, tarred rope, crispy salted fish skins, leather, meaty gravy, crushed ginger, burnt toffee, caramel and tobacco ash. The finish carries iodine medicine, metallic notes (hot copper), licorice and smoked leather. Intense, rough around the edges (in a very good way), flavorful, interesting and rewarding. Try a drop or two of distilled water to bring out even more notes. Very good! $90, 47.4% ABV
Cheers and thanks for reading!

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