I talk about decanting and aerating wine every other day at Cellar Door, so I thought I’d try to shed some light for any wine lovers out there pondering which wines might benefit from these (not-so-fancy) processes and why (or why not!).
But before I waffle on, I think it’s important to emphasise the subjectivity that’s inherent in the enjoyment of wine. We’re all individual and will choose to either decant or aerate, or do both or neither, each time we open a bottle. I say: experiment, try these techniques, have a go! The main thing is to get a feel for the results and add another string to your wine-stained bow!
Isn’t decanting and aerating the same thing? I don’t think so, and here’s the difference.
Aerating is purposefully invigorating wine with air to bring about changes in aroma and flavour.
Decanting is separating clear wine from sediment in the bottle. By default, decanting will do some aerating, but is much gentler in doing so.
Not every wine calls for aerating or decanting, but certain wines can really benefit from these processes.
When first opened, many young wines can appear “tight” or “closed” (and perhaps not like you remembered the wine when you tasted it in a cellar door or enjoyed it on a previous occasion).
Aerating invigorates the wine with oxygen, which helps reveal aroma and flavour. Also expect to see the “hard” characters and “bitey” stuff (often tannin and acidity) soften, taking more of a back-seat to flavour and a softer mouthfeel.
So, which wines?
Expect great results with full-bodied, tannic reds (Cabernet Sauvignon, some Shiraz, Nebbiolo and especially Durif to name a few). By contrast, delicate reds (Pinot Noir, Gamay, etc) may be more easily affected by intense aeration so be a little wary with these wines.
Aerating is pretty much everyday practice for us at home with younger reds (and even the occasional white wine), whereas I avoid aerating old or particularly delicate wines as the process can be too aggressive and what little fruit character remains could be lost if these wines are worked too much.
There are many tools for the job: strange-looking funnels that gargle, pouring devices that are wedged into the bottle mouth, long spears that are inserted into the bottle... all designed with the aim of getting air into your wine; some are better than others.
At Cellar Door, we aerate all of our red wines (Syrah, Durif Viognier & Durif) using our favourite Winebreather carafe before pouring for customers. We love this wine gadget because it aerates the wine while attached to the bottle with minimum spill and fuss. You can aerate over and over in one go, then set the wine aside until you’re ready to drink it either in the carafe or back in the bottle.
In the case of older red wines and vintage port styles, many of these throw sediment as they age. This is common and all part of the journey of ageing! Decanting separates clear wine from sediment, which if allowed to remain makes the wine taste more astringent and appear cloudy, not to mention the unpleasant mouthfeel.
Let the wine stand on your bench for at least a good few hours. Ahead of your fancy dinner party or other occasion, carefully open the bottle without jiggling it up, and in one motion, pour into a vessel slowly while monitoring wine clarity using a torch/candle/mobile phone camera-light as it shines through the neck of the wine bottle from below. Pour slowly and carefully to ensure the sediment stays in the bottle and doesn’t end up in your glass – you only get one go at this! When you begin to see a trail of fine sediment, stop pouring! This generally leaves 30-60ml of wine in the bottle along with the sediment. Through decanting you are also beginning to aerate the wine, but very gently.
If you don’t have a decanter at home, a clean vase, stockpot or any other wide or shallow vessel will also do the job for a one-way decant. For a special wine / occasion, you may wish to decant a few hours before enjoying.
Phew! Hope this helps you wine lovers out there.
This is a fantastic opportunity for an experienced, self-motivated and energetic Vineyard Supervisor to join our dynamic family business in Rutherglen, North East Victoria.
The new team member will:
We have 12 acres of vineyard to maintain during the growing season, with aspects of this role extending to limited winery work during vintage. Flexibility of working hours can be negotiated. Other farm work and property maintenance form out-of-season roles, contributing to the growth of this boutique family-owned business.
This is a full-time role (including four weeks annual leave & superannuation) with an immediate start or as soon as possible.
Working hours are a 38-hour week, variable during vintage and with flexible hours possible.
Salary negotiable according to level of experience.
Apply in writing together with contact details for at least two referees to Rowly at email@example.com
Enquiries: Rowly 02 6032 8844.
Love working with people? Interested in wine? Does weekend work suit your lifestyle?
We're looking for an energetic and hands-on individual to join our dynamic, artisan wine business. Excellent communication skills, creative thinking and a positive attitude are imperative. This Permanent Part-time role offers the opportunity to join in the growth of our small family-owned and operated business as we make our way to the top of artisan winemaking and visitor experience delivery.
Scion’s Cellar Door has been a key focus of sales for the past 10 years, with the visitor experience pivotal to the success of our business. We have featured three times in the Gourmet Traveller Wine Best Cellar Door Awards, including two Best Small Cellar Door Awards for the Rutherglen wine region.
Based in Rutherglen, the successful applicant will conduct personalised and memorable tasting experiences at Cellar Door, enhance and streamline processes within Cellar Door operations, and provide support in the areas of Wine Club management, wholesale accounts and events.
Previous experience in a Cellar Door or similar customer-service/tourism-based environment is imperative, as are strong computer skills. Good wine knowledge will be well regarded but more important is an appetite to learn, with learning opportunities provided as part of the role.
Successful applicant must be available to work weekends, starting as soon as possible.
To obtain a copy of the full Position Description, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
To apply, please email a cover letter addressing the key selection criteria set out in the position description together with your resume to email@example.com
Enquiries: Sally on 0410 635 680
Our signature semi-sweet fortified Durif - After Dark - belongs with all kinds of dark chocolate desserts. Around 70% cacao is ideal to contrast with the wine's sweetness.
Need some inspiration? We've compiled a list of flavours & ingredients we've found pair well with this wine style. We'd love to hear of any great food / recipe matches you discover when enjoying our wines, so drop us a line on email or social media.
AFTER DARK GOES WITH...
Fruits (& vege)
raspberries, red currants & other red berries
smoked or spiced nuts
RECIPE: THE BEST BROWNIE OF ALL TIME
We've always been a little underwhelmed by brownies... they promise so much but are often a touch too dry, a touch too sweet, a touch too fudgy... that is, until our friend Naomi delivered a freshly baked brownie slab on the arrival of our baby girl. Rich, textural and satisfying all in one chocolatey mouthful.
This recipe is by Poh, who shared the same sentiment until she tried her friend Priyant's brownies. As had our friend Naomi, until she tried Poh's. As had we, until we tried Naomi's. So we're passing this goodie down the line to you!
If matching with our After Dark, you could definitely have a play with some warm spices in your brownie mix. The controlled tannins in the wine can handle a bit of chilli!
Or keep things super simple and grab a block of artisan dark chocolate. In our neck of the woods, check out Bright Chocolate's single-origin craft chocolate or Renaissance Chocolates who use Belgian Couverture.
Fresh seafood is a treat for us in Rutherglen – the one gift we welcome in the dear arms of visiting friends from Melbourne when they buzz up the Hume Highway. On arrival the vino starts flowing - often a rosé - which works equally well with old friendships as it does shellfish cooked simply.
We love the simplicity of this quick pasta with mussels. Serve with ample Scion Rosé 2017.
Linguini with mussels, tomato & creme fraiche
1.5kg mussels, scrubbed & de-bearded
500g packet of linguini (use as much as you would normally cook to serve 4)
1 cup dry white wine or rosé
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tsp garlic, finely chopped (or a couple of shallots)
400g can diced tomatoes, drained
1/3 cup creme fraiche
1/3 cup Italian parsley, roughly chopped
sea salt & black pepper
Rinse the mussels in cool water and discard any with cracked shells. Firmly tap several times on the shells of any open mussels. If they close even a little, they are still alive and can be cooked. If not, discard them.
Cook the pasta in plenty of lightly salted boiling water until just al dente, for 1 minute less than the instructions on the packet.
Meanwhile, in a large heavy-based pot, bring the wine to a rolling boil. Add the mussels, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over high heat until the mussels open (around 3 – 4 minutes), shaking the pot a few times. With a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to a large bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Strain the mussel juice (avoiding any sediment in the bottom).
Combine oil and garlic in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until garlic turns a pale golden colour. Add tomatoes and stir, then add the strained mussel juice, increase heat and cook until reduced by half.
Stir in the creme fraiche, return to heat and simmer for 1 minute. Season to taste.
Add the pasta to the sauce and toss until heated through. Fold through the parsley, divide the pasta among bowls and top with the mussels.
We asked wine educator and author Clare Burder (The Humble Tumbler & Vintuition) to share her tips on how to get the most out of cellar door visits. And Clare should know: In the last year alone she has visited 11 Australian wine regions, as well as international wine destinations as diverse as Central Otago, Napa and Stellenbosch. Check out Clare’s hot tips below...
Cellar Doors are a magnificent tradition in Australia, which might be considered the windows to the soul of any wine region. It’s a privilege to be able to visit a producer and taste their wines, meet the people and experience their winemaking approach and way of life. There are more than 1,200 cellar doors in Australia, so there’s almost no end to places to visit, and you just never know what gems you’ll discover.
TIP 1: Plan, plan, plan – but leave room for local recommendations!
Before I go I do loads of research, whether it be Gourmet Traveller Wine mag, a social media call-out for recommendations or other peer review sites like TripAdvisor. When I arrive in a wine region, my general approach is to start at a notable cellar door and then ask them for the local gems – I find that a personal recommendation is worth more than any guide. Secondly, I generally aim for three to five venues per day, maximum – being in a hurry defeats the purpose; I’d much prefer to amble along with the locals and enjoy the scenery.
TIP 2: Make appointments
Some of the most incredible experiences I’ve had have been at wineries that only open by appointment. This enables you to get up close to the producer, giving you a richer experience and time to really explore their wines and their approach to winemaking. In recognition of this generosity of time, I personally think there is an (unspoken) obligation to buy when you’ve made an appointment – even if it’s just a bottle to show to your appreciation.
TIP 3: It can pay to pay
Many producers now offer both a free tasting and a paid option. I always try the paid option as it’s almost guaranteed to be something memorable – whether it be older releases, some inventive food or cheese matching, or just the chance to taste the premium range.
TIP 4: Ask questions!
All of those things you’ve always wondered about wine can probably be explained at the cellar door, so go forth and ask all the questions. It is, after all, the point of visiting a winery… you never know what you might learn – and most cellar door staff love questions and conversation!
And a few more things:
Well hellooooo! The cool nights and blue-sky days of autumn proper have arrived - simply one of the best seasons to visit our region. We've picked some of our favourite events from the upcoming High Country Harvest program (5 - 21 May), all within 45 minutes’ drive of Rutherglen or less.
Click on the event title below for more info, or browse the full program at www.highcountryharvest.com.au
Tweed Ride (Rutherglen) – Saturday 6 May
Rutherglen’s Tweed Ride has developed quite the following, with this year’s leisurely tweed-clad cycling adventure featuring three new food and wine experiences. Stops include the new Andrew Buller Wines, Cofield Wines and Rutherglen Estates. Don’t forget your vintage attire!
Image credit: Georgie James Photography
Food for Thought (Yackandandah) – Saturday 6 May
We love Saint Monday’s ethos, which will be celebrated at this ethical, plant-based, candlelit no-waste feast. Oh, and did we mention, their feel-good food is super delicious? (Here's a little bit more about Saint Monday over on our Eating out around Rutherglen blog post.)
Image credit: Saint Monday
Smokin’ Hot Stanley (Stanley) – Sunday 7 May
Just beyond Beechworth, Stanley is a small village surrounded by apple orchards and nut groves in their autumn prime, and is now home to two exciting new farm-to-plate movers and shakers – Black Barn Farm and Garden State. Join them for an abundant feast of lip-smacking local fare, basted, smoked, slow-cooked and flame-grilled over four open fires.
New Breed Feast (Chiltern) – Saturday 20 May
This delicious lunch event features some of our favourite friends of food, wine and creative pursuits! Winemakers Ricky James and Simon Killeen, photographer Georgie James, and Pinchos Catering! To be honest, they had us at succulent spit-roasted heritage roast pork.
Image credit: Georgie James Photography
Taste Trekkers Gourmet Time Travel (Beechworth) – Saturday 20 May
Curated by gregarious local foodie Sally Lynch, this lantern-lit roving feast around Beechworth brings together some of the town’s tastiest mouthfuls with historical backdrops including the grand gold-rush era bank setting of Provenance restaurant, the old gaol and Tanswell’s cellar.
The Art of Cheese (Tarrawingee) – Friday 19, Saturday 20 & Sunday 21 May
In our book, goats cheese can add that something-something to so many meals and a beautiful hand-crafted piece of goats cheese is pure joy! If you’re reading from the same page, here’s your chance to join the goats of Tolpuddle Farm for an immersive pasture-to-plate experience: goat milking, hands-on cheese making and a shared lunch in the garden with passionate producers Melissa and Donovan.
Image credit: Tolpuddle Cheese
Harvest menu at Lake Moodemere Estate (Rutherglen) – 5 - 21 May
Lake Moodemere’s Cellar Door is a majestic location overlooking the lake. The Chambers family raise their own lambs as well as growing grapes on the estate. Check out their special harvest menu during High Country Harvest, featuring lip-smacking Moodemere Lamb and other delicious morsels by the open fire.
Ciao Biscotti (Rutherglen) – Sunday 7 & 21 May
One of Rutherglen’s lovely B&B hosts, Kellie-Anne (and sometime-grape picker during vintage at Scion!), is hosting intimate hands-on biscotti-making workshops with afternoon tea (of course matched with local wines). Open to both B&B guests and visitors.