T h e N e w L e t t e r i s . . .
It's Your Turn to be the Winemaker.
Decanting a bottle of wine is like racking a barrel.
When you remove the wine from a barrel (racking) in order to clean out the lees (sediment),
a winemaker always needs to ask does CO2 need to be dispelled, and how much oxygen
should this wine get on the way to the tank and back to the barrel.
A wine bottle is like a very tiny and restrictive barrel,
so given that this ‘barrel’ is now in your hands,
it’s your turn to be the winemaker.
I wish I could help you and just make a chart of how a given vintage, vineyard, block,
and barrel # should be decanted, but that’s not possible because how long and how you are
storing the wine would make the chart a vague guess. The variables of length of time,
temperature, temperature fluctuation, light levels, and bottle variation will all factor-in
such that you need to be the expert and come to that last guiding conclusion on how to
increase the quality of the wine and experience.
So dear winemaker, please consider these techniques.
Open the wine in advance of the course it is going to served with, such that you will have
enough time that you don’t have to rush things... like a half an hour or so.
Pour some of it into a small wine glass and taste to see if it is corked.
By the way, always have the most sensitive person review this, because it may be fine to you,
but her comments at the table will make or brake the wine (and yes, women are more
sensitive to the TCA/corked aroma than men generally).
Now the thinking goes, do I decant or not?
And if so, how much time and vigor should I use?
To help make this winemaking determination you need to do some observation.
As you know, part of our philosophy of winegrowing is that the wine should be alive.
So we don’t do anything to kill it, things like fining and filtration. As such, there may be various
levels of CO2 that is being generated by this life. Very low levels of CO2 make the wine more
lively, and higher, observable levels interfere with the mouth-feel. You may observe tiny bubbles
around the neck. If so, a decanting on the more vigorous side which includes splashing is in order.
Here is another chance of observation for CO2 : if you use an Ah-So cork puller,
(the one with two prongs) when you first insert the longer prong, and then the shorter,
then rock it back-and-forth to send the prongs deeper, eventually when the first prong gets
below the bottom of the cork, if there is any built up pressure from CO2 there will be
a little sssssst of pressure escaping. This is your tip-off. Proceed accordingly.
For the sake of completeness, there is another way of not only observing CO2 ,
but also observing the effect that de-gassing the wine, and oxygen up-take will achieve:
Take two small wine glasses and pour about an ounce into each.
(Because we bottle in liters, we have given you the 250 ml of license to do this work).
Cover one of them with Saran™ wrap, or something like it, or an odorless palm
of your hand, and shake that one glass vigorously for about 15 seconds.
Let the wine come to rest for at least two minutes, if not three, and taste the two glasses
against one another. The shaken glass will be equivalent to a vigorous twice splashed decantation
(sounds religious, doesn’t it?). As the winemaker on-call, here is your chance to extrapolate.
Tasting the two glasses, ask yourself which is better, and at the same time, hold in your mind
the virtues of the wine that came in second place. Extrapolate between the two.
Your answer, which is all we have at this moment-of-truth, is the best. Go with it.
Maybe just let the wine continue to breathe, maybe gently decant it, maybe splash it once,
maybe twice vigorously between two decanters. Whatever you do, don’t let splashing it into
the wine glass act as the decanting. People will drink it before the CO2 has dispelled and the
oxygen has been incorporated, and the first impression will not have been nearly as good
as it could have been. In all cases, it takes at least 10 minutes for CO2 to dispel,
oxygen up-take to be resolved, and for the wine to regain its composure.
As the winemaker-on-duty, it turns out you have more responsibility than
you previously imagined. Your addition to the quality of the taste, aroma, and experience can
never be belittled. Your decision is way-the-heck better than just pulling the cork and pouring it.
I sold you this wine. I don’t encourage everyone to buy this wine. And in your case,
I am as happy as a pig-in-poo that you can carry this torch forward.
Did you ever think of yourself as a winemaker before?
Well, now you must....
With love from,
Bruce and Krassimira Rector