We had some friends around for dinner recently. They hadn't been to our house before, and had bought a nice bottle of wine along. Things were going swimmingly.
Until ...The Husband attempted to open their bottle of wine.
We had just poured bubbles and were waiting to do a toast, so the Husband thought he would quickly open the red and let it "breathe" while we drank our champers. So with glasses waiting to clink, we waited. And waited. I popped my head out to see was taking so long, he'd gone to a more remote part of the kitchen..."We're waiting?!" I hissed.
His stricken face said it all.
As did the crumbled half of the cork that actually had come out. The rest still intact in the bottle but with fault lines running through it. It also was not going to make a clean exit. Our stricken faces met. "Do you need a strainer?" I whispered. He nodded furiously. Problem was my "strainer" was actually a big old plastic colandar with holes the size of pencils. It would have to do.
Meanwhile I carried on, chatting loudly and enthusiastically. I glanced in his direction. The colander idea was not a good one, as I saw (very good) red wine pouring over the floor. Without missing a beat, I threw a tea towel at him and he threw it on the floor and started mopping with his foot, while still "straining" the wine into the waiting decanter. In a flash he was gone. I was the only one who saw a new bottle of our wine being smuggled inside under his shirt.
Which was duly corked, decanted and appreciated over dinner. With the former bottle taking pride of place on our table alongside the decanter.
There's something to be said for screw tops!
We now own a lovely petite tea strainer with teeny weeny holes. In case of emergencies.
So why do we decant red wine in a carafe? I know it's because it helps it "open up", but what does that really mean?
Old wines that have been cellared properly will contain sediment due to the aging process. By properly decanting the wine, the sediment will remain in the bottle. Wine is decanted so it can be aerated or allowed to "breathe". The decanter is meant to mimic the effects of swirling the wine glass to stimulate the movement of molecules in the wine and therefore trigger the release of more aroma compounds. In addition it is thought to benefit the wine by smoothing some of the harsher aspects of the wine (like tannins).For old wines with sediment you need to be very diligent about pouring the wine into a decanter. First, stand the bottle up for several hours to allow the sediment to settle at the bottom. Fine sediment will take longer to settle to the bottom of the bottle.
For young red wines, splash the wine into the decanter. The more it splashes into the decanter, the more it comes in contact with oxygen. Let the wine settle and rest for a short time.
Wow! But I wonder what determines as old vs new wine? Ah, another post! Gawd won't we impress everyone next time a wine needs decanting!