Should I decant?

Give the wine a little swirl in a glass
Give the wine a little swirl in a glass

The Telegraph recently featured a report on whether a wine ought to be decanted before being drunk. You can read the full article here, but its writer, Victoria Moore, made it clear that she isn’t particularly in favour of decanting. Nonetheless she highlights some scenarios in which a wine can benefit from this process. She’s absolutely right that decanting is a personal preference and many of us that work in the industry will have had good and bad experiences of it. Not every fine wine will necessarily benefit — and it’s quite often the wines that we might not expect that will benefit the most. If you’re unsure whether you ought to decant or not, the following pointers might help you decide:

Pour a little first

Even if your wine is relatively inexpensive, if it’s suffering from a bit of bottle stink, decanting it might be just the ticket to shift any sulphurous odours it retains. Give it a little swirl in a glass before making a decision, and if you detect bottle stink, this is a candidate for decanting. Similarly if its flavours are muted, it will probably benefit from the aeration that decanting provides. Continue reading

Award-winning wines

When you buy a wine to drink, do you ever find yourself gravitating towards one that has a little sticker on the label indicating that it has won an award? Lots of people do this – in the same way that they will tend to choose the half-price wines in the supermarket assuming they are getting a bargain, they will identify an ‘award-winning’ wine as better than the alternatives on offer. But there’s often more to that little sticker than meets the eye.

The International Wine Challenge & Decanter

Award-winning wines
Award-winning wines

Some awards are quite prestigious, such as those given out annually by the IWC (International Wine Challenge). It’s very desirable for the winemaker to display the IWC sticker on their wine and will greatly enhance their sales, so the wine that wins one of the IWC’s awards such as the ‘Argentinian Red Trophy’ will have faced some pretty tough competition. Decanter’s awards are similarly well-regarded. Wines which are up for consideration are tasted by a panel of wine industry insiders with ‘expert’ palates and allocated accordingly. So, surely it makes sense to choose a wine that has received the seal of approval by expert tasters rather than one that hasn’t? 

What would Jancis do?

Well, what are the alternatives? We could make the decision to ask a wine merchant’s advice, or buy online and put our faith in a short description of the wine, or we can look for suggestions from a particular critic like Jancis Robinson or Jamie Goode. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting some guidance when it comes to buying wine, it is a very personal thing. Although what one person liked, no matter how revered they are in the wine industry, won’t necessarily be to every consumer’s taste.

There is some snobbery about wine awards though, many who are dismissive of them are quick to point out that wines that genuinely are ‘the best of the best’ are not entered into competitions because the producers can sell their wines without the endorsement of a sticker on the label. There’s some truth in that certainly, but for the others it is a great way to promote their product to a greater audience and to improve their credibility. 

Awards worth winning

If it is just guidance you are after, that little sticker awarded by the IWC or Decanter tells you two things – the wine has been entered into the competition, so the winemaker thinks it is good enough to win. And secondly, the panel of tasters, many of them highly credible Masters of Wine, journalists and household names in the industry, agreed that it deserved their seal of approval. So don’t be afraid to plump for the award winner – it is likely to be a much better buy than the cut-price supermarket wine that appears to be a bargain, but ultimately tends to disappoint.