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Nov 29, 2008 10:01 PM

decanting for sediment

I had a 1979 Lungarotti Torgiano tonight, a wine that needed to be decanted for sediment. Everything was fine, until about an hour after our first glasses, when the wine basically fell apart. What do I do with the second bottle? Decant into another bottle using a funnel?

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  1. While decanting may have accelerated the process a little, your wine probably would have fallen apart even if you hadn't decanted. Old wines are fragile things. (Wish I could remember where to find a quote about a ancient bottle of Burgundy that was stunning on opening but dead as a doornail a quarter hour later: "But, oh, what a glorious 15 minutes it was.") For your second bottle, open it at an occasion where it'll be drunk up within an hour.

    1. Leave the bottle upright in the cellar for a few days to a week then pour very slowly from bottle (don't decant). You might have to drink faster too. 8-)

      1. Be glad it held up for an hour.

        1. The decanting process had nothing to do with the wine "falling apart". Carswell's comments were right on. The use of a funnel wouldn't affect the wine any differently (personally I don't like funnels in any case). As pointed out, the fact that this old wine faded after an hour just tells you that you need to consume this wine quickly, while it still has life. I would still decant the wine as you stated it had a lot of sediment... you still need a clear wine. BTW, standing a bottle upright for a week or 2 prior to opening it will allow the sediment to collect on the bottom of the bottle... however, you can't pour and repour w/o the sediment clouding the wine. You still have to pour out the wine in one motion... either by pouring into a decanter, or by pouring the entire bottle, before the sediment arrives at the neck, into glasses directly w/o tipping the bottle back while going from one glass to the next. This practice is a good tip when you find yourself in a situation where you need to decant a wine but there's no decanter available.

          In any case, begin drinking the wine as soon as it's poured... some people make the mistake of letting EVERY wine breath a while before drinking it. I always taste a wine after it's poured it to gauge how it is right then... and then go from there... watch it as it develops. In your case you already know it's going to fade. Open that next bottle soon and drink up!

          5 Replies
          1. re: WineAG

            Very good tips. Only thing that I can think of adding would be to carry the bottle from the cellar to the pouring area carefully. I've seen too many, who followed the rules, and then mistreated the bottle from cellar to sideboard. Once it has been stood upright, do not let it go horizontal, or worse, until you have poured to that level. I like the advice about not tilting back too much, once pouring has begun.

            I also espouse the same "tasting" method, rather than rely on someone's chart of time in a decanter. When it's time, it's time, regardless. In this case, we know that the wine will be fading upon pouring. Get it quickly, but enjoy.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Your comment about carrying the wine is a good one. Often, even in good restaurants, the person/s handling the wine don't know how to properly handle the bottle from the cellar to the table. Very frustrating.

              This reminds me of the time about 15 years ago... I ordered a bottle of 1953 Calon Segur in a casual upscale restaurant... more known for their food than their wine program. I was psyched as the wine was modestly priced and I knew it was wonderful. The waitress aproached the table holding 2 glasses and a decanter...and the bottle of wine tucked under her arm!!. I was stunned. Thankfully, they had additional stock and I personally went with her to the wine cellar to get the new bottle and carried it to the table myself. Brings back memories of that glorious wine.

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Yeah, I usually subscribe to this method too. We finished about 2/3 of the bottle in the first hour when it was great, but the last three pours were less than memorable.

                Thanks for your tips. We're going to get a bigger group of people next time.

              2. re: WineAG

                Anytime you introduce a good amount of air -- as decanting does --
                to a short-lived wine, your shorten its life even further. Oxygen will
                deal the final death blow to an old wine.

                I'd store the next bottle upright a few days, pour gently and with sharp eyes,
                and drink immediately.

                Did you buy these bottles at Lungarotti's wonderful property, meng?

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  I wish! A friend received two bottles as a gift from her birth-year, forgot about them, and they have only surfaced recently. I wasn't particularly hopeful since the fill level was at the slope of the shoulders and the cork crumbled, but as carswell said, it was a glorious 45 minutes.

                  When I do plan a trip to Italy, I'll definitely drop by the estate.

              3. Help a novice understand "the wine fell apart"?

                1 Reply
                1. re: ocpitmaster

                  Wow, 4 years later the thread lives on... "Fell apart" refers to the fact that the wine was sound when it was first poured and could even further develop in the glass/decanter/bottle... but then declined. Often what happens with older, delicate wines is that the fruit fades quickly. It's nice for a time but doesn't have enough fruit or structure to stand up to oxidation (the exposure of the wine to oxygen once it is open). For this reason it's critical that you taste an older wine immediately after it's poured to gauge how it is. I've seen some wines fade completely after just a few minutes... and it was nice for those few minutes... therefore, an opportunity missed.

                  Keep in mind that we're talking about a small majority of the wines that we would be talking about here. Most wines aren't opened that old, so typically not a real problem... but something to keep in mind should the occasion arise.