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Jun 19, 2009 05:02 PM

How to serve this wine?

I was just given a very nice bottle of wine from 2000 (Syrah). Should I decant it, if so, how long? Do I run the risk of spoiling the wine? Or should I serve immediately? Should I let it breathe in the wine glass for 30', or is that too long? I've checked online (I've never bought expensive wines before, only had them in restaurants) and there's not much out there.

Hopefully we can reach some consensus.


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  1. I would not overthink this bottle. Pop, pour and enjoy!!!

    Should be good without decanting.

    1. the wine isn't really mature enough for you to be worried about sediment/precipitate formation, so decanting for that particular reason is unnecessary. however, decanting certainly won't "spoil" the wine, and in fact, allowing a young-ish red to breathe will reduce the astringency and give the tannins a chance to mellow a bit. but there's really no need to get formal about it - you can probably just uncork the bottle about 30 minutes before drinking/serving.

      1. To some extent it depends on the wine. Where's it from? Who's the producer?

        Nine-year-old wines can indeed throw a sediment, especially if they were filtered minimally or not at all. And some of the better Syrahs (Hermitage and Côte Rôtie, for example) will still be in their young adolescence at that age and would therefore benefit from decanting up to several hours before consumption.

        On the other hand, it's often interesting to pop the cork, pour the wine and see how it changes as it is exposed to air.

        5 Replies
        1. re: carswell

          It's from Valais, in Switzerland.

          Last night I drank it from the bottle after letting it uncork for a half hour. I have one bottle left, should I try decanting it tonight. The question is, can I hurt the wine given its age?

          1. re: cmm3

            Again, to some extent it depends on the producer. Don't have a lot of experience with Valais Syrahs but some I have tasted have been light and fruity, others denser and more powerful, more along the lines of a northern Rhône wine. If the bottle you opened last night struck you as closed and tight, if the tannins were astringent, if the nose was inexpressive, then by all means splash decant tonight's bottle an hour or two before serving. If it was none of those things but had a lot of sediment, then carefully decant tonight's bottle just before serving. Otherwise, just uncork and pour.

            That said, decanting normally isn't harmful to wines except when they are on their last legs, which probably wouldn't be the case for an eight-year-old high-end Syrah.

            1. re: carswell

              Thank you very much. Can you recommend a book which is good for teaching about wine, and how to serve?

              I've really only had nice wine in restaurants, but would like to start buying more expensive wines (30-50 a bottle) at home for my new wine cellar.


              1. re: cmm3

                Open the bottle, pour one ounce in a glass, swirl, inhale deeply, observe to color,and drink. If it the taste is to your liking, pour a glass(es). If it tastes a bit "tight", decant it and wait. Sounds simple (it is) but it works for me.

                1. re: cmm3

                  «Can you recommend a book which is good for teaching about wine, and how to serve?»

                  A question frequently asked on this board. There are many good books available these days and everyone has his or her list of favourites.

                  My usual recco for a starting point is Wine for Dummies (don't be put off by the title). The World Wine Atlas is also useful. In preparing documentation for my tasting group, the book I turn to most often is Hugh Johnson's Wine Companion, which uniquely combines a detailed overview of all the major and many minor winegrowing regions and their products worldwide with information on leading producers and chapters on wine appreciation, storage, etc; it's also beautifully written, though the current editon dates from 2003 and could use an update. While The Oxford Companion to Wine is generally considered the ultimate general reference, it's probably better suited to people who've got their feet soaking wet than to those who are testing the waters. Yearly pocket guides like Oz Clark's, Tom Stevenson's and Hugh Johnson's are also useful.

                  Here are some of the less cantankerous threads discussing the topic:

                  New to Wine

                  Seeking a Wine Reference

                  Best Wine Book for Novice

          2. Decanting is good for any wine, it aireates and opens up the bouquet. Open it, decant it and enjoy it.

            3 Replies
            1. re: cstr

              «Decanting is good for any wine, it aireates and opens up the bouquet.»

              You state this like it's an undisputed fact, which is hardly the case. Look at the Oxford Companion, for example: "Decanting, optional and highly controversial step in serving wine ... [Besides the obvious reason of separating a wine from its sediment] another, traditional but disputed, reason for decanting wine is to promote aeration and therefore encourage the development of the wine's bouquet. Authorities as scientifically respectable as Professor Émile Peynaud argue that this is oenologically indefensible: that the action of oxygen dissolved in a sound wine when ready to serve is usually detrimental and that the longer it is prolonged -- i.e. the longer before serving a wine is decanted -- the more diffuse its aroma and the less marked its sensory attributes. ... His argument is that from the moment the wine is fully exposed to air (which happens when it is poured, but not to any extent during so-called "breathing") some of its sensory impressions may be lost..."

              Hugh Johnson is a little less categoric. Pointing out that many American researchers have come to pretty much the same conclusion as Peynaud, he nonetheless feels that some wines may benefit ("There are wine-lovers who prefer their wine softened and dulled; vintage port in particular is often decanted early to soothe its fiery temper; its full 'attack' is too much for them. They equate mellowness with quality. ... There are [also] certain wines that seem to curl up when you open the bottle -- like woodlice when you turn over a log. The deeply tannic Barolo of Piedmont shows nothing but its carapace for an hour or sometimes several. If you drink it during that time you will have nothing to remember but an assault on your tongue and cheeks. But in due course, hints of a bouquet start to emerge, growing stronger until eventually you are enveloped in raspberries and violets and truffles and autumn leaves.")

              Parker acknowledges the practice is controversial. Decanting is "only essential if sediment is present in the bottle." He claims "no white wine requires any advance opening and pouring" (FWIW, I disagree; there are some that do, and not just ones that need to blow off reductive aromas). If red wines are to be decanted, "15-30 minutes of being opened and poured into a clean ... decanter is really all that is necessary" in most cases.

              None of the many wine geeks I know -- including wine sellers, importers, sommeliers, wine bar owners and wine tasting organizers -- regularly decants wines. While acknowledging both that decanting can be useful for dealing with sediment, eliminating reductive aromas and blunting the edge of harsh young wines and that there are a few bottles (some of them, surprisingly, very old wines) which are exceptions to the rule, they otherwise consider the practice useless at best, harmful at worst.

              1. re: carswell

                I would like to second you on decanting white wines. For some wines I find it absolutely essential. I just opened a bottle of Riesling the other night that required about 30 minutes of breathing for a pretty strong sulfur aroma to blow off.

                1. re: carswell

                  Nice thesis paper, my goodness, the OP is asking about a lolly bottle of Syrah. I do stand corrected, I never decant my Ripple.

              2. Check out my tasting notes from the best Syrah that I had ever tasted. ...

                I tasted a Syrah from the 70s that had been double decanted with no sediment and one from 2000 with tons of sediment.

                Decant this beautiful wine and enjoy it!

                As a general rule, Cornas (a crazy Syrah from France) needs to be decanted. You're not going to compromise a good bottle of 2000 Syrah by decanting it. Open the bottle an hour before serving and try it. If it taste fine, pop the cork back on and wait. If it's a little tight, pour a small glass and drink it over 30 minutes. Still tight, decant it. Still too tight...serve a Cotes du Rhone and wait for your Syrah to open up.