Wine Monopole

To answer this question, we should first look at why we would consider decanting any wine in the first place.

Get rid of sediments Until very recently, most wines received only a coarse filtration before bottling. Consequently, there was often a lot of sediment in the bottle, especially for old wines which have gone through extended aging. Decanting can separate the sediment from the clear wine.

Get rid of undesirable smells Many wines often had unpleasant odors caused by bacterial growths, unwanted yeast cultures, unpleasant sulfides (a rotten egg note), stink from dirty barrels, etc. Many experience that if one exposes a bottled wine to oxygen by pouring it into an open container (i.e. the decanter), these unwanted smells are usually "blown off." Also, wines sometimes seemed rounder (and even richer) after aeration before serving.

What to do with Burgundy? Many believe that decanting benefits those more structured wines like Bordeaux and should not be applied to fine Burgundy wine, whose fragrance is delicate and evanescent. Having been the apprentice of the late Henri Jayer for year, Jean-Nicolas of Domaine Meo-Camuzet is considered the superstar winemaker in Burgundy. What is his take on decanting red Burgundy wines?

In general, he believes Burgundies do not need a full decanting in a carafe. Opening a bottle one or two hours before drinking, without any other manipulation, is also not effective. What should be done?

If the same bottle is to be consumed throughout a full meal, do nothing. The wine will progressively open and we should just sit back, relax and taste its different stages.

Yet, if the wine is to be served for only a short period of time (e.g. just one dish), you would want the wine to be exhibited at its best. Jean-Nicolas suggests to i) open the bottle an hour in advance, ii) pour successively two glasses of wine, and then iii) put back the wine in the bottle. You will thus introduce some air into the wine and be able to get rid of those so-called “ageing” aromas, which in fact are unpleasant 'locked-up' aromas.

This method is a compromised approach between decanting the entire bottle, which is rarely needed; and simply opening it, which is rarely efficient.

Of course, the most ideal is to leisurely enjoy the evolution of your fine Burgundy in a proper Burgundy glass and let the wine does its own magic, provided that you have the patience and time. A fine, vintage Burgundy deserves this very treatment.

Happy New Year!




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Written by Wine Monopole — January 06, 2014


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