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Wine

Let it Breathe - Wine Decanters

Better fruit expression, a softer structure and the best possible tasting condition – these are the reasons why it’s a good idea to decant certain wines.

But how and when should you decant a wine? We asked Tasting Panellist, winemaker and wine show judge, Dave Mavor to fill us in.

When to use a wine decanter

 

What is a Wine Decanter For?

The major benefit of decanting is to let wine and oxygen combine. Wine feeds on oxygen when it’s released, giving it the best chance to open up allows the fruit to prosper, the structure to soften, and the wine to be in optimum tasting condition.

In the old days, a wine that had a cork and was deemed worthy, or was of good providence, was meant to be decanted, but the advent of the screwcap has changed all this. It’s the newer bottles in your cellar, the ones you put aside for immediate drinking, which are the ones that can benefit from a little TLC in a wine decanter.

As screwcapped wines arrive tighter and more fine-boned than their predecessors under cork, a bit of air can help release primary fruit and aid texture. In terms of time, newer wines can be left in the decanter and you’ll notice they open up over the course of a few hours.

Older wines, however, do not need more than an hour as they will start to fall away in the decanter and fruit can become stripped quite quickly.

When to Decant Your Wine

How and when to decant wine infographic

Can Decanting Help an Inferior Wine?

Yes! Decanting a cheap wine can often help to get rid of the unpleasant odour from the sulphur dioxide. You might even fool your friends into thinking you’re drinking a much more expensive wine.

Vinturi Aerators

While we generally prefer the ritual, elegance and occasion of a wine decanter, there is no question that aerators are one of the fastest ways to achieve a similar result.

The theory works on the vinturi effect, where the velocity of a wine poured through a small gap increases, and as this happens, pressure decreases and air is mixed with the wine as it is poured into the glass.

So aerators are a fast alternative to decanting and if no-one else is sharing your wine, you can pour just a glass through the aerator instead of having to pour the whole bottle into a decanter.

Whether you use an aerator, a decanter or even a jug, give your wine some space to breathe and experience the difference.

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Preserving the truth on sulphates in wine
Recently, one of our members, Penny Bamford, got in touch to ask about preservative 220, which you might have seen listed on the back label of bottle of wine. She wanted to know whether it can cause allergic reactions and whether it’s used in organic and biodynamic wine. Tasting Panellist Dave Mavor came to the rescue with an explanation. The main preservative used in wine is sulphur dioxide, which you’ll see on the label as ‘preservative 220’, ‘minimal sulphur dioxide added’ or ‘contains sulphites’. Sulphur dioxide is added in the winemaking process to protect the wine from oxidation and bacterial spoilage. I can tell you that the sulphur dioxide used in winemaking is less than many other products (e.g., dried fruits, some beer, meat, etc.) that we consume every day. It has been used as a preservative in wine since Roman times. And don’t be fooled into thinking that because preservatives aren’t listed on European wines that they’re not present, it’s just that they don’t have the same strict labelling laws as Australia. The amount of sulphur dioxide winemakers are allowed to add is strictly controlled to a limit of 250 milligrams per litre. With such low levels it is unlikely to cause any health issues, however, some people feel they are quite sensitive to it. If that is you, here are some tips: There tends to be higher levels of sulphur dioxide added to white wines as they are more susceptible to oxidation, whereas the tannins in red wines act as a natural preservative. If you have symptoms from drinking red wine, it’s more likely to be from the histamines. Age also affects the sulphur dioxide levels in a wine, as it dissipates over time, so if you’re sensitive to sulphur dioxide, go for older wines. There is less sulphur dioxide used in organic and biodynamic wines. Certification allows 50 per cent of what can be used under conventional standards. Preservative-free wines don’t have sulphur dioxide added, however, it can also be a natural product of fermentation and is therefore often present even if it hasn’t been deliberately added. Also, without added preservatives, the wine will be very susceptible to spoilage by oxidation, so it needs to be consumed straightaway – which is not a bad thing. You might have noticed the recent emergence of products that claim to remove the sulphur dioxide from your wine. Dave explains that these are simply made up of diluted hydrogen peroxide. While this is a chemical sometimes used in the winery when too much sulphur has been accidently added to a wine, it’s extremely controlled by winemakers with a thorough understanding of the chemical process. Remember that if you add too much hydrogen peroxide to a wine it will go off and you will have spoilt all the winemaker’s hard work!
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Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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