Article posted Thursday, June 25, 2009 3:35pm

To Decant Or Not?

There are basically two reasons for decanting a bottle of wine. To separate the wine from sediment is one and the other is to expose the wine to the process of oxidation.

Sediment in red wine is created over time by the breakdown of pigments and tannin within the wine. As the wine matures over time, small amounts of these compounds gradually settle at the bottom or side (if properly stored) of the bottle. This thrown sediment, as it is called, is usually bitter or astringent. Some wines can throw sediment at earlier stages of aging due to less of a filtration process when making the wine. It is important to note that sediment is neither good nor bad when determining the quality. While sediment is more prominent in red wines, you may find sediment or crystals in white wines as well.

On a more debatable angle, wine will sometimes be decanted to promote oxidation of the wine. When a bottle is properly decanted, it comes into contact with oxygen fully, encouraging the development of the wine’s bouquet. This simulates swirling of wine in a glass on a broader scale. While this theory is meant to accompany aged, bolder, more tannic wines like cabernet sauvignon, Borolo or Bordeaux, it generally is not recommended for more delicate wines such as Chianti or pinot noir. You may also consider decanting a young, tight red that hasn’t yet matured to its full potential, helping this wine to open and show you what it may develop into.

California Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is often referred to as the “Noble” grape, and is the most planted of any varietal under acreage in California. The primary growing areas of Napa Valley, Sonoma and Lodi-Woodbridge have produced some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignons in the world. Usually blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and other classic Bordeaux varietals, typical California Cabernets are characterized by their rich textures and balanced blend of flavors and aromas. Expect mint or green pepper in the nose, hints of red currant and cassis on the palate, and distinct, lengthy tannins on the finish of these wines.

• J Lohr “Seven Oaks” Paso Robles 2006

Appearance:  A brilliant medium brick red color with a ruby hue

Aroma:  Anise in the nose with cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme and a hint of vanilla oak

Flavors:  Aromas carry through mid-palate to a slightly closed finish that opens while drinking

Finishing Notes:  A great young Cabernet that could be decanted to bring out the wonderful flavors

Where to Try:  The Mission Grille

Where to Buy:  Top Shelf Café and Gourmet, Madison Avenue Wine Shop, and Main Street Market

• Louis M Martini Louis’ Selecion Sonoma 2006

Appearance:  Rich ruby color

Aroma:  Anise in the nose with cinnamon, thyme, nutmeg and vanilla

Flavors:  Flavors carry throughout adding chocolate and a blueberry/cherry characteristic

Finishing Notes:  Lush and full with full tannins on the finish

Where to Try:  White Gull Inn, The Mission Grille, and Restaurant Saveur

Where to Buy: Econo Foods and Main Street Market

• Raymond Reserve Napa Valley 2005

Appearance:  A dark red with a cocoa tone and a little cloudiness

Aroma:  Intense nose of espresso and cherry flavors

Flavors:  Turns to dried cherry with a hint of plum and chocolate

Finishing Notes:  Long dry finish with polished tannins that will let this wine age well

Where to Try:  Sage and the Mission Grille

Where to Buy:  Madison Avenue Wine Shop, Main Street Market, Siobhan’s, and Door County Bakery

Wine Wiki:  Cooper

A person who makes wooden staved wine barrels. Everything a cooper makes is considered cooperage. Someone making wine barrels would be considered a wet or tight cooper of aging barrels. These barrels allow oxygen to enter through the barrel when the wine evaporates (known as the angel’s share).

Information about “Where to Try” and “Where to Buy” these selected wines was provided by the local wine purveyors and vendors. If you happen to also serve or sell these wines, email [email protected].

WINE:30 is written by Karl Bradley and Jody Wuollett. Karl is the general manager and self-proclaimed “sous” sommelier for the Mission Grille. Former restaurant executive and Door County native Jody is happily under-employed as a Mission Grille food server and a member of the local band Northbound. They are both long time residents and first time contributors to the Peninsula Pulse.