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.
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.
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:
Followers of Scion have been introduced to a series of ‘project’ wines over the years. The resulting wines form a vital part of winemaker Rowly's passion and learnings.
The latest project ‘PRC’ was dreamt up with two great wine mates of the North East – Chris Catlow (Sentio, Beechworth) and Pete Graham (Domenica, Beechworth) – to challenge winemaking skills while working together to achieve a focused result. This Chardonnay is the inaugural PRC release, co-crafted by Pete, Rowly and Chris.
Fruit was sourced from one of the country’s most revered plantings of chardonnay: the Lusatia Park Vineyard in Victoria's Yarra Valley. One parcel of handpicked fruit was divided three ways, with each winemaker setting out to craft a wine shaped around their individual interpretation of the fruit.
A code of silence kicked off production across three wineries, using one second-fill hogshead barrel and five pre-loved barriques. Nine months later, the trio sat down with samples of the resulting six wines to assemble the final wine together. Minor blending tweaks were made with the aim of best expressing the Lusatia Park Vineyard.
The vineyard produces elegant Chardonnay, with the 2016 vintage showing excellent concentration of flavour. From this premium fruit we’ve crafted a focused, modern Chardonnay that would benefit from a little cellaring. Only 110 dozen produced. We hope you like it as much as we enjoyed making it!
The PRC Chardonnay 2016 is available now in our online shop.
Vintage at Scion is off to a (wonderfully) slow start! Thanks to a wet winter/spring, cool nights and only a handful of really hot days, vintage is very slowly unfolding. This generally makes for excellent sugar/flavour balance in harvested fruit. With additional ‘hang time’ for grapes on the vine, we're expecting good complexity and flavour intensity. Our bird nets are on, vines have a generous leaf canopy and are well set-up for the long haul.
This season reminds us of 2006, which saw Durif harvested in early April and just so happens to be one of my favourite wines. Being a full 25 days behind the harvest of 2016, we have only hand-picked Orange Muscat so far. This fruit is showing vibrant citrus characters along with hallmark orange blossom aroma.
Cheers from Winemaker Rowly!
We now have 4 x Gold medal winners and 5 x 90+ point scorers among our current-release wines.
Scion’s Rosé, Durif and Durif Viognier have had some ripper scores and reviews, which you can check out below.
Scion Rosé 2016 -- 93/100 in The Wine Front (Campbell Mattinson):
It’s dry and savoury and boasts a distinct firmness. A few sips and it has you singing out for another round of ‘plates’. Cut, polish, detail, satisfaction. Uncompromising in an entirely praiseworthy (and enjoyable) way. On song.
Scion Durif Viognier 2014 -- 94/100 in The Weekend Australian magazine (James Halliday):
Vigneron Rowly Milhinch has made the traditional image of durif stand on its head. It's vibrant and fresh, imposing red nuances in the foundation of dark berry fruit flavours. Its balance is such that you can enjoy it now or in ten years.
Scion Durif Viognier 2014 -- 93+/100 in The Wine Front (Campbell Mattinson):
It takes time to coax it forward. It has a pretty face but the mainstay of fruit isn’t going anywhere in a hurry. Slowly does it. Leather, rust, iodine, blackberry and anise. A distinctive palate, slaked with tannin, fruit-driven but with a clear pitch towards savouriness. Viognier seems to have been dialled back from previous releases, adding a sheen to the wine and not much more. We’re in excellent territory here.Scion Durif 2014 -- 93/100 in The Wine Front (Campbell Mattinson):
When we’re not behind the Cellar Door, we love going on food adventures in our region!
If you haven’t already checked out these spots (all within 40 minutes of Rutherglen) we recommend adding them to your next North East Vic itinerary.
Just 15 minutes down the road from Rutherglen, Hub 62 is an inviting creative space for breakfast or a casual lunch. Local owners Craig, Beth and Amy have given a fresh, contemporary lease of life to Chiltern’s historic Masonic Hall, where they’re dishing up satisfying, flavour-packed dishes.
Hot tip: Great for early birds - breakfast starts early + the coffee is good!
NEW MENU @ THOUSAND POUND
Rutherglen’s main street wine bar Thousand Pound has introduced a new dinner menu on Friday and Saturday. The juicy hanger steak (grilled over charcoal) has been a bit of a hit (perhaps because it goes so well with Durif?!), though every dish we’ve ordered has had us calling for another glass.
Hot tip: Book ahead; the place has been pumping!
A scenic 40-minute drive from Rutherglen, Saint Monday in the pretty village of Yackandandah serves beautiful food and excellent Coffee Supreme coffee in the sort of space that invites you to slow down. Owners Chris and Lauren founded Saint Monday on strong social justice and environmental principles and genuine relationships with local food producers. The creative, plant-based menu champions vegetables and ethically sourced meats with delicious results.
Hot tip: Leave room for a house-baked treat for what we call "breakfast dessert".
EBDEN & OLIVE
We’ve been chasing chef and front-of-house duo Jodie and Steve around the border region over the last decade (most recently, Broadgauge restaurant). Their latest offering, Ebden & Olive in South Albury, doesn’t disappoint. Swing by this deli to pick up restaurant-quality sandwiches (think Pork belly, kim chi & mayo, or Soft shell crab & slaw), artisan cheese and charcuterie, or take-home dinners.
Hot tip: The canelé are as good as in France (read: caramelised crust)!
Bonus: Next door is Nord Bakery, who bake beautiful sourdough, rye and pastries.