Sunday, 7 August 2011

To Decant or not to Decant?

For most people, even many champagne aficionados, the thought of decanting a champagne before they serve it would not even even cross their mind. Surely it will cause your prized champagne to lose all of its bubbles, wouldn't it? However, it is an interesting practice which seems to be gathering momentum recently, especially with the sommeliers in Paris. It's not as mad as you may think though, after all, it is a fine wine and you wouldn't dream of opening your favourite Bordeaux or Burgundy without allowing it to 'breathe' for an hour or two. Furthermore, the act of decanting doesn't actually cause a champagne to lose its bubbles as fast as you may think. Experts have worked out that a champagne will only lose 10-15% of its effervescence through the act of decanting. A word of warning though, you must take care when decanting your champagne, imagine you are trying to pour the perfect pint!

So, what can you actually gain from decanting a champagne? Like, with other wines, decanting champagne allows aromas in the wine to be released. This causes the champagne to become more fragrant and it can also dramatically change how your champagne tastes. Something which seems fresh and citrussy upon opening can give way to rich, earthy and all together more vinous flavours after just 10 minutes in a decanter (or even just left in a glass).

Charles Heidseick, one of my favourites of the big champagne houses, is a big advocate of decanting their champagnes. They have even teamed up with Riedel, the glassware giant, to produce a very elegant decanter. Billecart Salmon have also produced a limited edition decanter which some Searcys champagne bars in London will be using.

Decanting champagne is definitely worth a try. A fun experiment to try which I saw Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan , MV do on Wine Library TV is to open a bottle of champagne and decant half the bottle and leave to rest in the bottle with a champagne stopper in. Leave both for around 30 minutes and then do a side-by-side comparison. The differences between each samples are noticeable and dramatic.

1 comment: