For the casual drinker, buying wine is often fraught with anxiety. How do you get the most out of a bottle of wine?
For a start, you need to know if you should decant and let your wine breathe in the first place. The reason why you need to pour your wine into another vessel is to allow it to come into greater contact with oxygen.
This can be beneficial, in terms of enhancing a wine’s flavours and softening it, but too much exposure can be devastating. So the question is when, and is it always necessary? Does it matter if it’s a white or red, or if it’s a young or old? In the first of our new series, Ask An Expert, we pick Jordan Scornet’s brains to find out.
Jordan Scornet, Sommelier and Wine Insider at Sarment
Jordan comes from the beautiful French countryside of Auvergne, a remote region that’s more famous for its water and cheese than wine. The wine there is bad, according to him, and it wasn’t until he realised he was enjoying bad wine did his interest in the drink grow. In a mission to educate himself, he cut his teeth at wineries such as Maison de Ladoucette right after law and business school, and later earned himself a masters in wine and spirits management at the Kedge Business School.
When and why should we decant wine?
There are no strict rules. My first advice would be to open the bottle and try the first glass at once. If it feels a bit closed and tight, let it breathe for a while. It depends on the wine profile, too. If it’s a young wine from very heavy regions, such as Bordeaux, let it breathe for some 30 minutes. The Silex that we have from Didier Dagueneau are quite young vintages, and they deserve to be put in a carafe (an open-topped glass flask).
The same thing goes for very bright and powerful whites from Burgundy, like Corton-Charlemagne. Even if you’re in a rush, don’t ever aerate it in a blender. It’s too shocking for the wine.
However, this does not apply to old wines. When you have a wine that’s over 10 or 30 years, they have been kept away from oxygen for a while. Rather, only receiving a tiny bit of oxygen through time. If you expose it straightaway to a shock of oxygen, most of the volatile aromas — the important parts — will be gone. At the end, you will have something that’s very flat. It’s a bit weird to explain, but you must imagine someone who hasn’t seen the light for 20 years. Bring them out into the light and you’ll see what I mean.
So how do you slowly introduce it to the air? Just open the bottle and pour it into your glasses. Don’t wait. Open the bottle and taste it straightaway.
Opening picture: Jordan Scornet. Photo by Jasper Yu