Monday, 28 June 2021 16:30

To Decant or Not to Decant?

Written by  Bob Campbell
Bob Campbell Bob Campbell

The late professor Émile Peynaud was not a fan of aerating wine by decanting it, claiming that the action of oxygen dissolved in a sound wine when ready to serve is usually detrimental.

The longer the period between decanting the greater the loss of aroma intensity, he claimed.

Peynaud believed that only wines with a sediment should be decanted and then only just before serving. If the wine needed decanting to help correct a fault such as reduction the same affect could be achieved by swirling the glass.

allowed much air exposure. I recall a 12-vintage tasting of Chateau Lafite back to 1929. Many of the tasters started with the youngest wine and worked back toward the ’29 while a few of us started with the oldest wine first. The 1929 Lafite was at first rather closed and slightly musty, but it opened beautifully with a brief display of fragile fruit and floral characters. In 20 minutes the wine had completely collapsed and tasted of old cigar buts.

The golden years for decanters must surely have been in the 18th and 19th century before winemakers were able to effectively clarify wines, most of which would throw a sediment. Today it is becoming increasingly fashionable to replace fining and filtration with a message on the back label warning that the wine might need decanting.

To test the merits of aeration I have, on a couple of occasions, aerated a wine before serving it blind alongside the same wine that had been freshly poured, and invited students in my class to choose a preference. The aerated wine won by a narrow margin in both cases. “Not much difference,” was the response from most of those who took the test.

I favour Peynaud’s approach. I seldom aerate wines before tasting them in a large glass which I swirl vigorously to chart the change, if any. A movie reveals more about a wine than a simple snapshot.

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Bob's Blog: Predictions for 2021

Market research organisation Wine Intelligence looks into the future each year and makes quite specific predictions. They have scored a high hit rate in the past. Here are their five predictions for 2021.

  1.  Wine volumes will decline and spend per bottle will rise – though this may be largely due to rising alcohol taxes. Taxes on alcohol are a popular way for governments to re-charge the coffers drained by Covid-19. I would add that Australian wine producers will be seeking alternative markets after China, their biggest market, placed restrictive taxes on Australian wine. New Zealand is an obvious target.
  2. Alternative packaging formats will make serious inroads into the traditional glass bottle market. Bag-in-box and cans have a smaller carbon footprint than bottles, which could become a victim of measures to battle climate change.
  3. Wineries will forge more meaningful and lasting direct relationships with their consumer bases, but wine tourism will take a long time to recover. The pandemic has motivated producers to ramp up their online sales to good effect. The momentum is expected to continue, albeit at a slower pace. Cellar door visitors will continue to be depleted until borders are opened.
  4. The surge in online retail usage will continue, and investment and growing competition will reshape the online channel and enhance delivery speed. Consumers have been encouraged to make purchases online. That is likely to continue as deliveries become faster and more efficient.
  5. The wine seltzer market will take off. Hard seltzer has tripled in the US over the past two years and is expected to continue.

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