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Decanting: When, Why & How?

Your new bottle of Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has arrived, and you are ready to enjoy it, but wonder: can it be sipped as is? Or would the bottle benefit from decanting? That’s a great question and something that a large number of people consider before uncorking red wine. Many bottles benefit from decanting, but it’s not always necessary. Let’s break it down.

First, what is decanting? The process of decanting involves slowly pouring the liquid from the bottle into another vessel. If you’re at a tasting room or restaurant, the wine is traditionally moved into a decanter, a special glass vessel that comes in all shapes and sizes. The wine is often swirled in the decanter and left to rest at room temperature before drinking.

Why decant? It serves a few purposes but here’s the main one: To aerate the wine. If you’ve heard someone talk of “letting a wine breath,” they are referring to the process of aeration. When wine is introduced to oxygen, it releases certain flavors and aromas developed while the wine was aging in the bottle. Aeration improves the flavor of a wine because it allows everything to soften and relax.

When to decant? Generally speaking, younger red wines with intense tannins benefit most from decanting. Some older reds that have been aged, as well as whites and rosés that are unfiltered or made naturally may also benefit from decanting. The only wine you should never decant is sparkling, because it will deflate the bubbles, and no one wants that. The good news is, you can’t hurt a wine by decanting, so go ahead and give it a try.

Practice makes perfect. How to decant wine in three easy steps: 1. Open the bottle. 2. Keeping the bottle at a 45° angle, then slowly pour the liquid into the decanter at a steady pace. If any sediment approaches the opening, stop decanting. If you don’t have a proper decanter, use a glass carafe. A watch pitcher works wonderfully in a pinch. 3. Let the wine rest at room temperature in the decanter for at least half an hour before drinking. Although wine professionals love to debate the perfect length of decantation, it’s difficult to over-decant a wine. Now go enjoy that delicious Napa cab!

Red Wine Being Poured into a Decanter

WINE & CHEESE: THE PERFECT PAIR

Bread and butter. Bacon and eggs. Spaghetti and meatballs. Some culinary duos are so classic you don’t even question them. Wine and cheese are definitely one of those perfect pairings. They just seem to go together. For an unforgettable and incredible pairing—the type of tasting that leaves you mind blown and at peace with the world—consider the following set of basic pairing principles.

• Choose wine and cheese from the same region. There is a saying, “if it grows together, it goes together,” and generally speaking, wine and cheese that are produced in the same area make nice pairings. When pouring an Italian Chianti Classico like those from Tenuta di Arceno, pair it with Italian cheese like parmesan and pecorino. French whites go well with French cheese like comte or brilliant-savarin, and Spanish reds are wonderful with manchego and mason.

• Consider the classics. Pinot Noir and Gruyere. Sauvignon Blanc and Goat Cheese. Cabernet Sauvignon and Aged Cheddar. Rosé and Havarti. Certain types of cheese have been paired with certain types of wine for centuries. You can’t go wrong with one of these tried and trusted pairings.

• Match the wine and cheese by flavor. Like goes with like and tangy herbal cheese, such as chèvre pairs nicely with an acidic, herbal Sauvignon Blanc like Galerie. Aged cheese goes with older wine, while delicate milder cheese like mozzarella will pair with lighter whites and rosés. An intensely flavored blue cheese tastes best with a more assertive and strong wine like a port. Younger, fresh cheese pairs best with dry, refreshing whites.

• Create balance between the cheese and wine. Look for wine and cheese that might be too much consumed alone, but when enjoyed together, harmonize beautifully. For example, a sweet wine mellows a stinky cheese by making it taste creamier and less funky.

• You can’t go wrong with a firm, nutty cheese like gouda or gruyere. This type of cheese is fatty and rich but not too strong, so it will pair with various wines, both red and white.

When all else fails, chat with your local cheesemonger. Cheese — and wine! — lovers are eager to share their opinion on what works and what doesn’t work. Let them know you want to pair wine and cheese and ask them for advice.

Cheese with Nuts and Olives on platter
Platter of Nuts, Olives, Cheese and Bread

HI, I'M PINOT NOIR

Pinot Noir is one of the world’s most deliciously drinkable red wines. While it’s easy to consume, it’s not so easy to grow. Cultivated in France for over 2,000 years, Pinot Noir requires a cool-climate to flourish. The grapes have thin skin and grow in tightly packed clusters. Besides France, Pinot Noir does well in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Australia’s Yarra Valley, and the Carneros, Central Coast, and Russian River Valley regions in California.

Unlike other reds, it’s difficult to characterize Pinot Noir in a few words. It’s the wine that most reflects its terroir. Therefore, its flavor varies depending on where it’s grown. Most Pinot Noirs are earthy with a light to medium body and red-black fruitiness. With lower tannins and high acidity, Pinot Noir is smooth and easy to drink. It can be enjoyed young or aged. Overall, it’s a complex and delicious wine.

Other things to know about Pinot Noir if your new to this popular variety:

• Pinot Noir is an incredible food wine and can be paired with a wide variety of dishes, from duck and pork to salmon and swordfish.

• Pinot Noir has more clones than any other grape – which can offer different taste profiles in the wine. Sometimes you see single-clone Pinots like those from Cambria, but winemakers also opt to blend multiple clones to add layers to the wine.

• It is often used to make other types of wine. Many rosés are made from Pinot Noir, especially those from Oregon. It is also used to make Champagne and other sparkling wines, like the La Crema Brut Rosé.

• Many well-known Pinot Noir producers also make Chardonnay. This is because the two grapes thrive in similar growing conditions. Check out the wines from WillaKenzie, Brewer-Clifton, Hartford Family Winery, and La Crema to see what we mean.

Clusters of Grapes Close Up
Two Glasses of Red Wine