What’s the deal with decanters? How many wine glasses does a newlywed couple actually need? Is there a great wine we can buy now and drink on our 5th anniversary?
To answer these questions and more, we went to our favorite wine expert, Greg Castells, owner of famed wine importer Martine’s Wines and former head sommelier at The French Laundry. His answers may surprise you…
Zola: Does using a decanter really make a difference in the wine?
Greg Castells: Yes, it does. Decanting is the action of pouring the wine in a carafe or decanter to separate the solids from the liquid. Sediments often form with time in the bottle and are the result of tannins breaking down in a solid state with aging. While these sediments are safe for consumption, they are not enjoyable to drink and often taste bitter. They will interfere with the experience of drinking a fine, older wine. Decanting allows you to enjoy a wine that is clear and free of sediments. I recommend decanting Bordeaux, Domestic Cabernet Sauvignon, or Syrahs that are in general 10 years or older.
You can as well use a decanter for oxygenation purpose. Often younger wines in their primary stage of evolution need oxygen to develop their aromas and find better equilibrium. While there is no hard rule, I recommend oxygenating the following wines: young Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc (3 years and younger), and young Cabernet, Domestic Pinot Noir, and Syrah (5 years and younger).
Z: How can couples decant like pros?
GC: For best results, leave the bottle standing up for a day or more to allow sediments to drop to the bottom. Open the bottle, always making sure it stays upright, and slowly pour the wine into the decanter. Keep your eye on the the shoulder of the bottle: when you can see the sediments appear in the shoulder, stop pouring. You just decanted a wine.
Z: What kind of decanters do you use at home?
GC: I like small base, longer neck decanters: they are easy to grab and pour from. Stay away from those oxygenation machines, as they are too violent for the wine.
Z: How many decanters do you think a newlywed home needs?
GC: At least 2. This allows you to prepare different wines to enjoy throughout the course of dinner.
Z: How many different types of wine glasses do you use at home?
GC: We use 3 types: (1) white wine glasses for Champagne, young whites (non Chardonnay), and sweet wines, (2) Burgundy shape glasses for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Grenache based wines, and (3) Bordeaux shape glasses for Domestic Cabs, Bordeaux, and Syrah.
Z: What is a good value wine gift to give to drink now?
GC: Champagne is always the best wine gift. If you are on a budget, a bottle of the great Cuvee tradition from Gonet Medeville will make do the trick. It’s a refined, expressive, and fresh champagne to drink for any occasion. For a more special bottle, I highly recommend the superb, voluptuous champagne of St Chamant — don’t forget the Caviar.
Z: What is a good value wine gift to buy now and drink in 1 year?
GC: Red Burgundies and Red Rhones from the 2011 vintage are great to enjoy in their youth. I love the Marsannay’s from Charles Audoin for Burgundy or the Crozes Hermitage from Gilles Robin in the Rhone: both are perfect examples.
Z: What is a good value wine gift to buy now and drink in 5 years?
GC: California Pinot Noir from the 2010 Vintage. Put away a few bottles of Lucia Soberanes Pinot or Pisoni Vineyard Pinot and pull them out 5 years later. You will impress your guests at dinner.