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Many people buy wine and simply pour it from the bottle into a glass and then drink it. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with drinking your wine in this way, but there is something very appealing about pouring wine from a decanter. The problem is that not many people know what a decanter is for, how they work, what the benefits are, and which style to buy.
Here’s our guide to choosing the best decanter and how to use it.
Step One: Know what a decanter is for
It’s all well and good to buy a decanter and use it, but sure enough one day someone is going to ask you what you’re doing with your wine and why it’s making your wine better. This would be a great time to give them the right answer.
Simply put, decanting is the process of moving your wine from one vessel (i.e. a wine bottle) to another vessel (your decanter). It’s not the action of moving the wine from one bottle to another that helps improve the wine, but rather two processes that happen during the decanting.
If you are decanting older wine, one of the processes that occurs during decanting is to remove any sediment that may be within the wine. If the sediment stays in the wine, you may find it has a bitter, astringent flavour. By removing the sediment you remove that bitterness, leaving you with a sediment-free, clear, and great tasting wine once more.
The second process that occurs during decanting is oxygen being mixed with the wine. The addition of oxygen to the wine brings it to life and makes it develop even faster. This helps to open up the aromas and flavours, from which many young wines will benefit greatly.
Step Two: Which style of decanter to buy?
One of the most important aspects to look out for in a decanter is to find one made of clear crystal or glass. You do not want to invest in a fancy decanter with colours or patterns. Although they may look pretty, they will not help with showing you if there is any sediment in the wine poured into the decanter. Ensure that your decanter is free of any dust or musty smells, as this may affect the quality of the wine.
It is also wise to ensure that your decanter is easy to clean. A lot of people look out for decanters that are shaped or styled differently, but often these are not easy to clean and therefore do not do a very good job. A simple, practical decanter holding at least 750ml is all you really need.
When you’re finished with your wine, clean the decanter with warm water on the outside and cold water on the inside. This stops the glass from fogging. Never use detergents, as they are too hard to remove if soap suds remain in the bottom of your decanter. Whichever decanter you decide to choose, ensure that it is practical for both your budget and your use.
Step Three: Which wines should you decant?
Many will argue over which wines should and shouldn’t be decanted. But the truth is, any wine can be decanted, it is really up to you if you like your wine this way. However, most people will agree that red wine is more often decanted than white and sparkling wines.
The age of your red wine doesn’t matter, as even a young wine will benefit from aeration. Cheap red wines will improve in flavour after decanting. Some cheap wines may have a rotten egg smell upon opening, which is due to the sulphur dioxide in the bottle. Decanting this wine will remove the smell and make your wine a lot tastier. Certainly do not shy away from decanting your older, more expensive wines, as they will also improve greatly in both flavour and clarity. Remember, decanting older wines will remove any sediment that is in the bottle, so is highly recommended.
White wine doesn’t usually need decanting, but it is up to personal preference if you would like to do so. Many people cannot bear the thought of decanting sparkling wines and champagnes. On the other hand, some have commented that decanting these wines has helped take the edge off the bubbles and made the wines a little easier to drink. Again, this is completely up to personal preference.
A good decanter can last quite a few years if taken care of, cleaned properly, and stored well. There are many different types of designs available, and you can also often find vintage decanters online. Some of these might not be very practical, but could make for a great gift for any wine lovers in your life.
Social: Read our guide to #wine #decanters – what they are, their benefits, and why you should make use of them
There are times when you might have half a bottle of wine left over, and it’s not very good for drinking anymore. Or maybe you don’t have that problem in your household, but instead you might have received a bottle of wine that isn’t quite to your taste. In that case, it just doesn’t seem right to tip the contents down the drain.
Fear not, your wine can be put to good use through cooking! There are a number of recipes that become even more special with a touch of wine, so here are three of our favourite dishes using wine that could make for a great three course meal.
Chilled Chardonnay-Braised Calamari Pasta
½ cup Extra Virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
½ tspn crushed red pepper
250g cleaned small squid, patted dry
Salt and pepper
2 cups of Chardonnay
½ tspn of chopped oregano
⅓ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Cook the pasta using salted water until al dente. Once cooked, remove the pasta from the water and place on a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle with olive oil and toss through the pasta. Spread pasta over the baking paper and refrigerate
- Pour ¼ cup of olive oil onto a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper until the garlic is browned, which should take around a minute. Add the squid to the pan and turn the heat up to high, cooking for about 30 seconds and turning once. Add the wine and let simmer. Remove the squid and leave it to cool, but do not discard the remaining liquid
- Bring wine to the boil and reduce to about ½ a cup’s worth. Add the oregano and parsley then remove from heat. Place the reduced wine into a blender and puree. Add the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of cold water. Refrigerate until chilled
- Cut squid into ¼ inch strips or rings. Add the squid, spaghetti, and sauce into a bowl and mix well. Garnish with remaining parsley and season with salt and pepper
Meat Loaf with Red Wine Glaze
2 slices of white bread, torn into pieces
½ cup of milk
1 large egg yolk
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 ½ tspn sage, finely chopped
1 tsp thyme, finely chopped
1 tbsp salt
Pinch of pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of allspice
¾ cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
¼ cup plain dry bread crumbs
2 tbsp butter
1 medium white onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
500g lamb mince
250g pork mince
250g veal mince
1 ¼ cups dry red wine
¼ cup sugar
1 tomato, finely chopped
1 tspn unsulfured molasses
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Combine the bread pieces and milk in a bowl, and mash together to make a paste. Add the eggs, parsley, sage, thyme, nutmeg, cayenne, and salt and pepper, and combine until smooth. Add the cheese and bread crumbs, combining until completely mixed
- Melt butter in a pan and add the onion, cooking for about seven minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Remove from pan and, once cooled, add to the mixture from earlier. Add the minced meats and mix until combined
- Transfer the meat mixture into a loaf tin roughly 10 x 30cm in size, and bake for approximately 50 minutes. The meatloaf will need to be firm, but not completely cooked
- Combine the red wine, sugar, tomato, molasses, and allspice in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil, melting the sugar. After about 15 minutes, the mixture should be thick and syrupy
- Brush half the syrup over the meatloaf and continue cooking for a further 20 minutes. Using a thermometer, check the temperature of the meatloaf in its centre. If it is at 70 degrees, brush with the remaining glaze then let rest for 15 minutes. Slice into thick slices and serve
Chocolate Pinot Noir Fondue
1 cup heavy cream
1 ½ tspn instant coffee
340g chocolate chips
2 tbsp Pinot Noir wine
2 tspn vanilla extract
Dippers: Chopped banana, marshmallows, strawberries, raspberries, or whatever your heart desires.
- Combine the cream and coffee, and let simmer in saucepan. Add the chocolate chips and stir constantly until chips are completely melted. Stir in the wine and vanilla extract
- Pour the chocolate sauce into a fondue pot to keep it warm, and use skewers to dip your desired accompaniments into the sauce.
In order to really get a sense of what it is you are consuming, particularly when you are consuming a little bit of a lot of different items, it’s important to establish various palate cleansers. Palate cleansers are designed to remove food and drink residuals in your mouth, neutralising your taste buds so they are ready to try something new.
Without palate cleansers, different food courses or beverage sips can simply blend into one, lowering your wine tasting or culinary experience.
What foods can benefit from a cleansing palate?
Essentially, all food (with good flavours) will taste better when starting from a neutral palate. Most importantly, a cleansing palate should be used when consuming competing taste. Examples of competing foods include: chocolate, beer, wine, cheese, sushi or a multi-course meal.
Why are palate cleansers needed?
Many of the foods that we eat leave lasting residues or chemicals in the mouth. When not taking a bite or sip of something else, we can often taste that residue or chemical, referring to it as an “after-taste”.
When this “after-taste” isn’t removed, it can alter the taste of the next item to touch your lips. In turn, what you are tasting might not be true to its form. In other words, to truly taste the wine or cheese as it is supposed to be tasted, your mouth must be free from any disrupting flavours.
What can you use for a palate cleanser?
Hester Blumenthal, one of the world’s most famous advocates for the understanding of science in cooking, says he’s not afraid to suck on a tampon in order to get the neutral palate he requires. He says that “If you drain the moisture in your mouth, you experience richness, creaminess and sweetness more intensely… and there is really nothing much more absorbent than a tampon.”
But do you really want to sit with a string hanging out of your mouth in between each course or sip? No? Then maybe you should try one of the following palate cleansers:
When tasting wine…
When wine tasting, avoid foods with particularly strong flavours. Foods such as cheese, spices, garlic and anchovies can eclipse the subtleties that will help you identify the differences between each wine. As for tasting the wines, start with the most subtle flavours, working up to the more aggressive or intense varieties.
Before you take a sip, swirl your glass and pay attention to the colour. The more colour a white wine has, the older it is; for reds, a dark colour is the sign of youth. By swirling the glass, you release the aroma of the wine. Inhale briefly twice, or choose to inhale slowly and deeply once to identify favours. When you sip, allow the flavours to hit every wall of your mouth, along with the back of your throat.
Before moving on to the next wine, cleanse your palate with one of these methods and then pause to allow your palate time to breathe:
Water is a traditional method for cleansing the palate. Choose tepid water that is free from any flavour. If your local tap water has a metallic taste, opt for natural spring water.
Plain bread, especially French bread varieties, clean the palate well. To really cleanse the palate, combine a piece of plain bread with a glass of water, allowing the water to touch all sides of your mouth.
Plain crackers, such as water crackers, can neutralise the palate, especially when held in the mouth temporarily. Be sure they are plain and contain no salt or pepper.
Farmed by the Californian Graber family, Graber olives (and Graber olives alone) are said to be excellent palate cleansers. These nutty little olives prove difficult to find in Australia, however.
Rare roast beef
This one is out for the vegetarians, but rare roast beef (must be rare and not medium-rare) is often used in wine tasting competitions to cleanse the palate.
Celery is of very plain flavour, and as it’s packed with moisture any other flavour is likely not to linger. Robert J. Harrington, author of Food and Wine Pairing, swears by it.
When tasting food…
When enjoying a multi-course meal, palate cleansers help you to identify each individual course and its flavours. According to the French, certain palate cleansers can help aid digestion, avoid heartburn, and can stimulate the appetite.
In formal dining, full course meals can consist of 5,6,7,8, and even up to 16 courses, with each course carefully created to complement the one before. Palate cleansers make up some of these courses, with a light aperitif often being served first to stimulate the palate.
These palate cleansers include:
While sorbet can be considered by some to be a dessert, it works wonders as a palate cleanser between courses. Traditional flavours include lemon, lime and mint, and it works by taking a spoonful of sorbet and letting it melt in your mouth. Your tongue should be slightly numb.
Refrain from getting stuck into the bread when it first comes to the table, and save it to snack on throughout the meal. The texture of bread will help remove any food particles, and the bland flavour of the plain bread will neutralise any flavours that are sticking around on your taste buds.
Room temperature water washes out your palate, providing it is drunk slowly. Allow the water to reach every wall of your mouth.
Lemon, orange and grapefruit can be sucked between courses. The acidity will neutralise your taste buds, and can be enhanced when teamed with a leaf of mint. Alternatively, you could try adding a squeeze of lemon to a glass of room temperature water.
Le trou Normand is a fiery shot of Calvados traditionally served in Normandy in the middle of a meal. Its effect is fast and hard, and it not only cleanses the palate but excites the appetite at the same time.
Lightly brewed green tea
Green or peppermint tea that has been lightly brewed can be swirled around the mouth to rid the taste buds of any flavour remaining. Be sure not to add any sweetener.
Sprig of parsley
Parsley has very little flavour, and its texture will help rid other flavours from the mouth. It is commonly used to freshen the breath after the consumption of strong flavoured foods.
Take an organic apple, slice it up, and snack on a slice between each course.
Milk is a good one when spicy food has been consumed, as it neutralises the spices often found in salsas or chillies. Milk can also help cleanse the palate after consuming foods high in fat.
Latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that the consumption of beer, once the widespread choice of Australians, is at its lowest point in 66 years. Since the 1970s the drinking of beer has continued to decline and, in the last year alone, consumption dropped by 2.3%. Overall, beer drinking has halved over the last four decades.
The average Australian these days consumes 331 standard drinks of beer per year. Work that out over the course of 12 months, and it adds up to just under one standard drink per day. Of that, 82% of beer consumed is full strength, 13.8% is made up of mid-strength, and low-strength beer sits at 3.9%.
While beer has seen a decline in consumption, wine has risen to its highest ever level in Australia. Since 2008 beer consumption has dropped by 44 drinks per year, but wine has risen by 7 glasses. The ABS found that Australians now consume on average 304 glasses of wine each year, which accounts for slightly less than one small glass each day.
Of the wine consumed, white wine proved most popular with 48% of wine drinkers choosing white as their tipple. Red made up 36.6% of wine consumption, while other wines (such as rosé and sparkling) filled the remaining 14.8%.
So what is behind the switch from beer to wine?
According to Ben McLeod, co-owner of Adelaide bar Peel Street, wine takes up about 75% of their total drink sales. Tim Schwilk, owner of family wine tasting business the Sydney Wine Centre, agrees that wine is becoming a bigger seller. He says, “People are actually drinking to enjoy the experience, enjoy the occasion rather than just to get drunk.”
Wine is full of flavour and complexity, and is a pleasure to share among friends. When two friends share a common love of a style of wine, such as cabernet sauvignon, it’s common practice to share a bottle. With beer, most people tend to have their own preference and any one table can see a multitude of different beer brands.
Another reason behind the switch could be health factors, with the idea of “The French Paradox” surging wine sales. The French Paradox is the observation of low coronary heart disease (CHD) death rates despite high intake of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. The term first came about with the airing of a 60 Minutes Special in America, and has been widely used across the world since. Essentially, it suggests that the French stay healthy despite a diet based largely on butter and cheese because they drink lots of red wine.
While many have dismissed the claim, there is definite truth that some level of wine can be healthy for you. Beer too, for that matter.
Wine, especially red wine, has been studied extensively by health experts over the years, and it is thought to promote a longer lifespan, protect against certain cancers, improve mental health, and provide benefits to the heart.
Major health benefits of wine include:
Reduced risk of depression
The authors of a Spanish survey which studied 2,683 men and 2,822 women found that those who drank two to seven glasses of wine per week were less likely to be diagnosed with depression.
A link in the prevention of colon cancer
A UK report suggested that moderate red wine consumption can reduce the rate of bowel tumors by up to 50%.
Some studies have suggested that when red wine is consumed with a meal, it offers more cardiovascular benefits than beer or spirits. Red wine can help prevent blood clots, relax blood vessel walls and lower bad cholesterol.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School suggested that the resveratrol in wine that comes from the skins of red grapes can extend one’s lifespan.
A link in the prevention of breast cancer
The Journal of Women’s Health published that the chemicals in the skins and seeds of red grapes reduce estrogen levels while raising testosterone in premenopausal women. The result is a lower risk of developing breast cancer.
A link in the prevention of dementia
Loyola University Medical Centre studied 19 nations to gather data that suggested a significantly lower risk of dementia in moderate red wine drinkers.
Reduced damage after stroke
The journal Experimental Neurology published that resveratrol in red wine raises levels of heme oxygenase, an enzyme known to protect nerve cells in the brain from damage. For those who drink moderate red wine, it is thought their brain is more equipped to handle pressure put on it from stroke.
A link in the prevention of prostate cancer
The Harvard Men’s Health Watch reported that male moderate red wine drinkers were 52% less likely to develop prostate cancer than those who never drank red wine.
And what about beer…
Just like wine, beer contains many antioxidants and important B vitamins (such as niacin and folic acid) that are important in good health. In Dubbo, a ten-year study of nearly 3,000 men and women found that those who consumed two beers per day had a 20% lower chance of dying from heart disease.
Major health benefits of beer include:
A Finnish study suggested that those who drink moderate amounts of beer have 40% less chance of developing kidney stones.
Good source of folic acid
Half a pint of lager contains 17% of the recommended daily amount of folic acid, which can lower heart disease-causing homocysteine found in the blood.
A 2009 study showed that the elevated levels of silicon found in beer can contribute to higher bone density.
Research has shown that up to two beers per day can help alleviate stress associated with the end of a working day.
So when you weigh it up, both beer and wine have their health benefits. Maybe the switch is more about calorie intake?
When it comes to calories, wine is most definitely the winner. A standard glass of wine (6oz) contains 1,260 calories, compared with 1,500 calories in a pint of beer (14oz). If you put that into an evening’s perspective, one bottle wine will see you consume 750 calories, while a six pack of beer contains 900 calories. There’s a reason for the infamous “beer belly”.
And if trends continue as they have been, wine could soon be the nation’s favoured alcoholic drink.
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