To Decant or Not to Decant AND What Wines to Drink Now…
Questions that come up frequently in wine conversation with Wine Journeys: “When should I decant my wine?” or “What does decanting do for wine?” The answer is worth sharing since decanting is usually done for a couple of reasons.
For age worthy, tannic reds (think Bordeaux or Vintage Port) that you want to drink now, which would normally benefit from a few years in the cellar to soften, decanting is the answer. If you leave them to sit in the decanter for an hour or more, the oxygen in the air interacts with the tannins and softens them. In essence, you are accelerating the aging process to make them ready to drink. Bottle aging produces a more subtle result with tertiary aromas developing over time, but decanting works well to make them enjoyable for tonight’s dinner.
The other reason to decant is reserved for wines that have been in the cellar for some time. As the tannins and other components in the wine age and interact with the microscopic amounts of oxygen in the headspace of the bottle, they form precipitates. Hence, it “throws” sediment that’s harmless, but hardly attractive. If you slowly pour older wines into a decanter, you can watch carefully to make sure the sediment stays in the bottle. Now your wine will look clear and more appealing.
As for the types of decanters, it’s a personal preference. The only caveat is it has to have a wide base to expose the wine to air. This means the $20 one from Canadian Tire will do the job as well as an ornate crystal one that costs thousands. Just pick one that makes you happy and then start using it!
As usual, my ratings are based on a 5 star system developed by Michael Broadbent: 5 stars: Outstanding; 4 stars: Very good; 3 stars: Good; 2 stars: Moderately good; 1 star: Not very good, but not bad; No stars: Poor.
Bachelder L’Ardoise Niagara Chardonnay 2019 ★★★½+ $24.95 (Vintages)
Thomas Bachelder has a special connection with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. For this white, he aimed to reproduce the satisfying house Chardonnays found on French Bistro blackboards and he succeeded admirably. It’s sourced from old vines, found mostly on the Escarpment slopes, then aged in previously filled oak barrels to round out the wine. A pretty pale colour in the glass leads to lemon, pear, green apple, nutmeg spice tinged with cream and peach structured with good acidity. Enjoy a bottle now if you need a very good white to accompany chicken souvlaki with tzatziki, roast chicken, or fettuccini alfredo.
Serbal Viognier 2019 ★★★½+ $16.95 (Vintages)
Another very fine and good value white from one of Argentina’s premier wine regions: Tupungato, Uco Valley in Mendoza. It’s dry, bordering on full bodied with refreshing acidity and plenty of fruit – candied lemon peel, peach, pineapple plus minerals, and long grapefruit finish. It has the body and fruit to match with Cajun Shrimp on a bed of rice, but it will be every bit as enjoyable by itself.
Königschaffhauser Vulkanfelsen Trocken Pinot Gris 2020 ★★★½ $17.95 (Vintages)
The wine, with a splash of pink from skin contact, is quite dry, and has attractive stone fruits, citrus, and pear. If you like trivia, this wine was grown on the slopes of an extinct volcano in Germany and the German’s call the grape Grauburgunder. It would nicely complement your charcuterie board, especially if it has some aged Havarti, or try it with pork in a mushroom cream sauce.
Ferzo Abruzzo Pecorino Superiore 2020 ★★★½+ $18.95 (Vintages)
The Italian shelves at the LCBO have been a little Spartan during the pandemic, but lately more treasures have been appearing at Vintages like this one from Southern Italy. It’s dry and has more body than most Italian whites offering up a blend of peach, lemon, and yellow apple on the palate, followed by a grapefruit/lime finish. It’s very good. If you are a fan of grilled fish or sushi, this is a wine to try.
Viticcio Morellino di Scansano 2017 ★★★½+ $18.95 (Vintages)
Morellino is a typical Tuscan wine in that it’s based on Sangiovese, but this one has Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blended in. That makes for a red with ample blackberry, black cherry, stewed plum, cigar box, and smoke. It’s a big wine with big tannins and plenty of acidity that would benefit from an hour or more in a decanter, which means you need food to tame it. Perhaps it’s time for a steak on the BBQ now that the weather is improving?
Bouchard Aine & Fils Beaujolais Superieur 2020 ★★★½ $12.95 (LCBO)
The Beaujolais region in Southern Burgundy is planted almost exclusively with Gamay. That grape makes this a wonderfully fruity wine, with particularly juicy red berries, mixed with a little earth, floral, and spice. The lighter body, lower tannins, and high acidity allow it to break the red wine/white wine rules. So, it complements poultry and rich seafood nicely. However, to experience a French style pairing, try it with baguette liberally daubed with Dijon mustard, ham, and slices of Brie heated until the cheese melts or your charcuterie and cheese board.
Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico 2017 ★★★½ $18.95 (Vintages)
Don’t let this Chianti’s paler colour put you off. Since it’s a 2017, it is developing notes of leather, dried cherry, and forest floor, but the fresh, bright red berry fruit and spice still shine through on the palate. It’s medium bodied with energizing acidity and moderate tannins that make it excellent with food. This Tuscan red would be a splendid complement to your lasagna, especially if you add a little Italian sausage. For my vegetarian followers, it would make an equally good pairing with mushroom lasagna.
Luis Cañas Crianza 2017 ★★★★+ $19.95 (Vintages)
This is probably the best wine tasted this month. It’s an intensely flavoured Rioja aged for a minimum of 12 months in American oak barrels, as is customary in the region. Agreeably dry and intensely black fruited with a supporting cast of vanilla, coconut, rosemary, white pepper, and smoke. You can cellar this for another 3-4 years and it will continue to develop, but quite enjoyable now. Delicious if paired with beef braised with red wine and tomato.
Quinta do Casal Monteiro Touriga Nacional/Merlot/Syrah 2019 ★★★½ $13.95 (Vintages)
Portugal continues to be a source of good quality wines that are great values. The main grape in this blend, Touriga Nacional, is indigenous to Portugal. As well, it’s the predominant grape used in making Port. This full bodied effort has smooth tannins and radiates dark plum, blackberry, smoked meat, cedar, and tobacco. Pork or beef roast would bring out its best.