Saturday 23 February marks “Open That Bottle Night”. This one night in February has been immeasurably brightened for wine-lovers by the creation of a special day to celebrate a good bottle of wine.
Open That Bottle Night is an event originally created by Wall Street Journal wine columnists, Dorthy Gaiter and John Brecher, to give friends and family the reason to finally open that bottle that is otherwise simply too special to drink.
Ahead of this years Open That Bottle Night we have put together some hints and tips about how best to open and savour that special bottle of wine.
Letting wine breathe
Allowing a wine to “breathe” is the process of exposing it to air for a period of time before serving.
Exposing wine to air for a short time can help soften flavors and release aromas in a way similar to swirling the wine in your glass. Young red wines, especially those that are high in tannin, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, actually taste better with aeration because their tannins soften and the wine becomes less harsh.
However simply removing the cork from a bottle and letting it sit for a while does very little to let the wine breathe as only a small percentage of the wine is in contact with air.
Wine Tip: The best thing to do is to decant the wine into a wine carafe or jug.
Tips for Decanting Wine
Decanting is basically the process of pouring wine from the bottle into another container of some sort. The reason is to aerate (or oxygenate) the wine to make it breathe better.
So which wines need decanting?
Some white wines that are made to age would benefit from being decanted, however, most white wines are made to drink a bit younger, and decanting them would not offer any great benefits.
Red wines that benefit the most from decanting are any big, powerful red wines. In older bottles of wine (five years and older) sediment tends to form in the bottle and whilst this is a natural process of ageing, it is not necessarily something you want to drink or have in your glass – decanting also helps remove this sediment.
How to decant
If you’re opening a young wine you normally don’t have to worry about sediment in the bottle, so you can just open the bottle and pour it into the decanter. If it is a really young wine, turning the bottle completely upside down “roughs up” the wine a little, giving it more air as you pour – which can speed the process along. Once it is in the decanter, give it a few swirls and let it sit for a bit.
If it is an older wine and you know you will be decanting it on the 23rd then open the bottle in the morning and stand it upright so that all the sediment particles go to the bottom of the bottle and are not floating around. When the time comes to decant, take the cork out and slowly pour the wine into the decanter, leaving the sediment in the bottom of the bottle.
Best wine decanters and where to buy them
You can purchase wine decanters in any shape and size, but you must remember that you are looking to oxygenate your wine so it is best to choose a design that allows the most surface area of the wine to be in contact with the air. Most wine shops sell decanters, as do many shops that sell crockery and stem-ware. You can also find a variety of decanters at online retailers.
And if you don’t finish all of the wine after it has been decanted (hmmm, how likely?) you can just pour it back into the bottle to store for another day (called double-decanting).
Cork versus screw cap? (Don’t judge a wine by how it’s sealed)
Screw caps are no longer considered the realm of cheap wine. Increasingly, bottles of very good wines are unscrewed, rather than uncorked, and winemakers lean towards screw caps for wines that are meant to be drunk early.
Screw cap keeps a bottle completely sealed and does not allow oxygen to enter, therefore ensuring that the wine remains crisp and well-preserved. On the other hand, cork or synthetic cork is usually preferable for bigger, fuller wines which benefit from the little bit of oxygen that the cork naturally allows through.
If you are looking for inspiration on what wine to open on the 23rd then now is the time to enjoy a chilled bottle of the 2017 Groot Constantia Chardonnay with its intense citrus (think fresh lemon and ripe Mandarin oranges) on the nose, coupled with hints of vanilla and butterscotch.
Red wine lovers would do well to opt for the Groot Constantia Cabernet Sauvignon with its ripe, black fruit flavours, like black currant and ripe cherries, followed by layers of cinnamon and cedar wood on the nose.
And if you are feeling celebratory why not uncork a bottle of the Groot Constantia Methode Cap Classique Brut Rose, a sure fire hit with its delicate Salmon pink colour and nose of cranberries and cherries with a hint of peach.
Whether you are planning on unscrewing a bottle of white wine, uncorking a bottle of red, or getting festive with a MCC – and whether or not you pour straight out the bottle or from a decanter of choice – the most important part is to sit back, swirl your glass, take a slow sip and savour your wine – cheers – here is to Open That Bottle Night!