We have all heard about the glory of aged wines, but most of us have never actually had a chance to try one. As wines age, they acquire a subtle quality that is much sought after, but in order to experience their full potential they must be handled and served properly. As part of the JUSTIN Library Program we thought that a brief primer on decanting your JUSTIN library selections might help you and your friends to have the best experience possible when serving these wines.
To fully enjoy what has developed in your wine over time, you will need to separate, or decant the wine from the sediment. Here is a quick description of how this is done.
- Remove the bottle from the cellar in the same position as it was stored (in a cradle, if you have one), or if you are serving the wine in a few days, you can gently move the bottle to an upright position and store it in a cool environment (not a refrigerator!) away from sunlight.
- Cut the capsule, or foil, just below the raised band at the top of the bottle; this gives you full access to the top of the bottle and will prevent any contamination of the wine due to drips that come into contact with the foil.
- Wipe off the area around the cork and top of bottle with a damp cloth to remove any chalky residue that might have accumulated due to long storage in a cellar.
- Insert your wine opener into the cork and carefully pull the cork from the bottle. Keep the bottle as still as possible throughout this step. A simple ‘waiter’s friend’ style wine opener with a long hollow centered screw is generally best for this job, especially for older corks.
- Light a candle or place a flashlight facing up between the table and where the neck of the bottle will be located during decanting.
- Decant the wine by gently removing the bottle from the cradle and keeping the bottle in the same orientation, being careful not to spill any wine from the top of the open bottle. Bring the bottle to the mouth of the decanter and slowly start pouring the wine gently into the decanter. If you have a funnel, this will make it easier to pour and help prevent spillage. After a while, you will start to see the light from the candle or flashlight through the neck of the bottle. Look for a thin stream of sediment as it travels toward the neck of the bottle. Just before the sediment enters the neck of the bottle, stop pouring and set the bottle in an upright position on the table. At this point, whatever is left in the bottle cannot be consumed since it is full of sediment.
If you skip this step, here is what you will find in your glass:
- It might be a good idea to let the wine breathe a bit. Depending on the structure and age of the wine you have decanted, it might be a good idea to let it sit for 30 minutes, an hour, or even more before serving it. The older the wine, the less you will want to wait.
Certified Sommelier, JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery