Pain and Joy of Decanting


I’ve got this flash (non-Riedel),decanter, the one with the phallic neck leading towards a flat fish-bowl space of glass big enough to hold four bottles of wine. It’s always a bit of a talking point when I pour purpley red wine into it as the crimson curtain of Shiraz, Cabernet or whatever has a sensual visual appeal.

Point is: what is the rule of thumb when it comes to choosing wines to decant?

Take the tale of two Bordeaux. One the real deal. The other a South African blend.

First up, Glen Carlou Grand Classique, the Estate’s five-way blend dominated by Cab and Merlot.

I have always found this wine a bit steely, hot and tight as a Jewish virgin holding a R100 note between her knees. This goes for Grand Classiques of five to seven years old.

The other evening I popped a 2006 and glugged it into the decanter, giving the thing a bit of a swirl. I left it for 30 minutes and when drinking time came, it was a totally different wine to the one I had come to know. It had aired out with a delicious blossomy fruit core, yoga-supple tannins and a pleasant hint of sage. A corker and on a totally different level of the Grand Classiques I had always had from the bottle. (Poured straight into a glass, Koos, not sipped from it.)

A couple of days later I hauled out a Ch?+¦???+¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¬teau Calon S+¬gur 1981, one of my favourite St Est?+¦???+¦?+¦-+?+¦+ëphe numbers and about the only thing I have in common with whacko actor Johnny Depp who also “digs” this wine, although I don’t know how well it goes with a joint of Algerian red.

Dumping it into the decanter, a heavenly aroma filled the room. Ploughed fields, a kelpy sea breeze, wild strawberries and cedar. Pouring the wine into the glass I couldn’t help thinking of that great line from the Al Stewart song “Year of the Cat” that goes: “She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running like a water colour in the rain”.

I let the wine stand for 15 minutes and after saying a quick prayer to Bacchus and Charlemagne poured the wine into the glass. Bugger-all. Nada. Kaput. Zilch. The wine was stripped of aroma and scant on flavour, as if the puff of excessive air had caused some wine-thieving angel to sneak off with all the heavenly tastes the wine showed six months ago when I had it straight out of the bottle.

I’ll decant younger stuff, but it looks like splashing the older wines around is a bit of a gamble. And I’m not prepared to lose any more older wines.

Enjoyed this article?

Subscribe and never miss a post again.


5 thoughts on “Pain and Joy of Decanting

  1. That’s why I’ve found decanting wine into my glass and then leaving it for 10 minutes before drinking is the safest bet. If the decanting is a bad idea, at least I have 3/4 of the bottle left to savour undecanted.

  2. Hey Emile. Always an interesting topic….decanting.
    I have a question. To my limited knowledge – the art of decanting originates from CHAMPAGNE. Why in your opinion was the art of decanting used for bubblies? What about white wines?
    I had two bottles of 1974 South African Pinotage that I opened in the last 6 months. Same wine. On both occasion I decanted the wines – with completely different results. The one was perfect and splendid; the other a complete disaster. What are your thoughts concerning this.
    Thanks for the spunky BLOG. Always a good read.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly. I don’t even own a decanter, because I believe that the only wines that should be considered candidates for decanting, are the ones that’s not really ready to drink yet. And that’s what I have a cellar for. The risk to botch older wines with decanting is very real and very unnecessary.

    In July my wine club is doing a blind “breathing” tasting of four reds, each served in three different ways (just opened; decanted for a while and opened many hours before). It’s of course necessary to do this blind, lest one’s mind directs one’s palate. Still, it’s not scientific (bottle variation, etc.) but should be lots of fun!

    Incidentally, in selecting the wines, our first choice was Glen Carlou Grand Classique 2005. We also think it’s a prime candidate for decanting when young – and they stay young for a while…

  4. Probably the first time since our “Italian” fall-out that I’ve agreed with you wholeheartedly. Decanting is strictly for young wines; if you’re worried about sediment in the older stuff, just park it upright for 2-3 hours before drawing the cork- gently. By the way, I won’t mind some of that Calon Segur…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *