Wine Talk

Snooth User: Degrandcru

2 Questions

Posted by Degrandcru, Oct 29, 2010.

2 Question came up lately..

1) I've been to a wine tasting lately where Philippe Magrez, son of Bernard Magrez presented some of their wines. Some younger, some older vintages. During the tasting someone asked the question how long before consumption one should decant wine. The answer of Philippe was, the younger the wine the more air it needs to open up. If its an old vintage you should not let it breath as the wine is fully ripened. Make sense, even though I never practised it this way. What are your thoughts on this?

2) During the tasting I talked to a wine importer about how to find out if a wine would still improve from aging. One tip he gave me was, if the wine opens up over time or is even better the second day, it will most likely still improves in the cellar. If it doesn't get better and tastes worse the next day, it most likely won't improve in the cellar. You think thats a reliable way to judge the potential of aging?

Following the advise the Carmenere I am having right now for sure won't age well...



Reply by GregT, Oct 30, 2010.

Some young wines need to open up. Sometimes they just die.  It's not a bright line rule.

Some wines that continue to open over time may benefit from aging.  But on the other hand, they may be great when you're drinking them so why would you continue to age them?  The fact that a wine continues to develop in the glass or bottle doesn't mean it needs to keep aging - wouldn't you rather drink a wine at its peak than at some necrophiliac moment? 

The way I usually judge the potential for aging, at least for reds, is if the tannins are still rough as hell.  If they're resolved, then whether you drink it now or later is a matter of personal choice - the fact that a wine has potential doesn't mean you want it to play out every last minute, unless you really like old and tired wine.  Had the same conversation with some people recently when we were drinking wines from 1982, 1989, 1994, and 2001 - same wine. I thought the 1994s were best, others thought the 1989s and earlier were best, and some thoguht the 2001s were best.  All were good - depends on what you like.

Reply by Lucha Vino, Oct 30, 2010.

Good question, I was pondering the same topic this week.  I had a 2004 red blend from Washington and a 2004 Shiraz from Australia this week. 

You might consider this blasphemy...  When trying a sample poured through the Vintari aerator the tannins became more pronounced.  Both wines were much mellower without being aerated and remained that way when allowed to breath normally in the decanter.

Other younger vintages seem to go the other way when aerating - the tannins mellow out and the tartness on the finish is minimized and the finish becomes much rounder.

What are your thoughts?

Reply by dmcker, Oct 30, 2010.

Regarding your question #1, DeGrand, my practice for decades has been the same as Philippe the Younger's. Though generally I don't decant as often as many. Just open the bottle a sufficient time ahead of time (and even stand the bottle days ahead when the age/sediment quotient calls for it), and take it slow in the glass. I'm not a guzzler when it comes to wine, and I enjoy the evolution of the wine in glass. Never have felt the Venturi was worth much, either.

Regarding your question #2, it would seem that Greg and I are in the same book, and maybe even chapter, but maybe not on the same page. I most definitely enjoy properly aged wines, even whites. Nor am I a necrophiliac.

What that 'properly' is is very much case by case. Depends on the producer, vintage, provenance and then also what I want to match it with. Perhaps even my mood, too, since I can enjoy the same wine at different stages in its life. However, there is definitely an optimum expression of any given wine, IMHO, and it usually comes after a certain amount of aging.

So many variables, that these kind of theoretical discussions lose force after a certain point (and in some cases like the Gourmet Bachelor's attempt to get at this in a simple table, right from the beginning), without a specific case to focus on. What the angle of the curve from release to optimum is can vary greatly, as does the length of the plateau at 'optimum'.

It's much more interesting to discuss (and consume) specific cases... ;-)


Reply by ChipDWood, Oct 30, 2010.

Each wine is like a person, and composed of different elements, body, and flavors.  No matter how many tastings I've poured for, either at home or on the job, each and every wine is going to behave differently upon the idea of decanting.

For the older wines, including some vintage ports which can really throw some sediment, I've done the trick of just wetting down some cheese cloth and lining the strainer of the stainless steel funnel I normally use with my decanter- but pour straight to the glass.  There's also the traditional method of using a candle beneath the neck as you slowly pour to determine when the "real" amounts of sediment are working their way down the bottle, thus helping you to avoid pouring a cup of sludge into the glass.

Often though, my concern for older wines is to avoid "shocking" them, which can happen if they're given too much room to breath, like in a decanter.  In this case:

  1. I'll use Dmcker's tip of standing the bottle up for at least a day before opening, allowing that sediment to fall to the base of the bottle.
  2. Fromt there, cut the capsule and uncork.  Sometimes easier said than done for the oldies.  Go slow.
  3. Take a whiff.  If there's tond of alcohol pouring off the nose, give it a minute or two before doing anything.  After going back if you've found things have settled down a bit, pour a glassfull INTO a glass through the cheese-cloth lined strainer, while keeping the rest in the bottle.  This will give you an idea of how that bottle will react to the air.
  4. Using that glass as a base, act accordingly.
  5. Always pour patiently and remember that each wine will give away how it will behave by its nose moreso than by any other tell.

Lastly, be careful when decanting Zins- if at all.  I'm the kind of guy that will decant just about anything in order to get the ball rolling- but Zins I've learned can react in a very fragile way concerning their nose.  I've got some bottles of Turley here at home- the most I ever do when we pull one of those puppies out is let it breath.  MAYBE a "quick wash" (pour into decanter gently, pour IMMEDIATELY back into bottle) just to start the process.  Sometimes just let the puppt breath (if it's older) and use the Menu aerator to liven up the first few pours.

And the Vinturi product- the one with the two vents- I mean why bother?  First off it's clumbsy and ALWAYS results in some sort of spilling.  And why not just decant so you can maintain MUCH greater contol over the bottle?  I like the smaller, one-vented "menu" style aerators as they can help to take the edge off, or will use them even for bigger whites or zins, even pinot if I'm in a hurry.  But that bigger, two-vented Vinturi is a tweener of a proposition to me.

Yo dos pesos.

Reply by Degrandcru, Nov 3, 2010.

@ Dmcker: You say "you are not a guzzler and you enjoy the evolution in the glass". I am the same way and often open a bottle when I come home from work at around 6 pm and see how it develops through the night. But that just works if you are by yourself. If you have friends over for dinner, the bottle should be opened up at the proper time before it gets served. Unfortunately there is no time to watch the wine develope in this case.

Reply by VegasOenophile, Nov 3, 2010.

I think that's true in most cases, but I have also had some older wines that benefitted from dome decanting, as they'd been locked in there for 20+ years and needed to open up and integrate a bit.  I guess the best rule is, if you open it and taste it and it needs decanting, then decant it! haha. 

I would submit that one of the most important factors in ageability is acid.  The more acidic the wine in youth, the greater the ageing potential.

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