We're going back to basics with Managing Director Mark Baulderstone, who has been championing Riedel's varietal specific philosophy since 1995.
Following on from our first blog in this new Riedel 101 series, we chat to Mark about Riedel's collection of decanters and why it's such an important part of wine enjoyment.
by Erin Ogilvie
What’s the main reason why people should use a wine decanter?
There are two reasons why people should decant, and they differ based on the age of the wine. You decant older wines to remove sediment, and because the wine has been trapped in a tight container for a long period of time. Exposure to air is beneficial because it allows the wine to breathe and to give a full expression of fruit.
The lesser known reason is to aerate young wines. To speed up the ageing process, they need movement and flow, and the only way to do this is to get them out of the bottle. Yes the wine evolves just sitting in a glass, but it takes an enormous amount of time. Get the wine into a decanter and get some air and some bubbles in it. We’re trying to cut the surface of the wine, allow it to breathe and allow it to really start to express itself as you’re drinking it young.
Is there a hard and fast rule about how long you should decant for?
To talk in very broad terms, the younger the wine, the more time it needs, and the older the wine, the less time it needs. But if you can be prepared and allow anywhere between 1-2 hours in a decanter, your wine will improve dramatically. If it’s a decanter that comes with the feature of being able to aerate faster, this can obviously speed up this process.
Say you have just opened a wine and you know it’d improve with decanting but you want to drink it straight away, what can you do?
Shake it up in the decanter. Don’t be scared to get it moving, especially if it’s a young wine. The intention is to see bubbles in the wine; if you put your ear to the wine, you want to hear a snap, crackle and pop. These are the sounds of the proteins and CO2 burning off which allows the wine to improve, become more aromatic, and show more fruit.
Riedel offers a lot of different decanters; what’s the purpose of all the different designs?
It's all about theatre! If you look at some of our decanters, there’s an enormous amount of theatre involved. Of course you could decant your wine into a jug, but how uninspiring. It is so much more fun bringing something like Eve to the table, and delivers ceremony to a wine you've invested in, whether that's $20 or $200.
Do some of them going to work differently to the others?
Yes, some of the pieces create a vacuum in the decanter based on the design, like Mamba, Boa, Escargot, or Ayam. You end up with air pockets that cut the surface of the wine and aerate it faster, making it perfect for young punchy wines.
Older wines will be completely punished in these decanters, so we have more traditional pieces that work perfectly.
What should someone consider when they want to buy a Riedel decanter?
Depending on your budget, choose a decanter that fits in your home, and that you feel is easy to use, wash, and take care of. Most importantly, use it regularly so it doesn’t get dusty and dirty. Nothing worse than having to clean your decanter because it has dust in it.
Can you keep your decanter in the box to keep dust out?
You can, but it’s going to smell when you pull it out of the box, same with your glasses. If you leave it in the packaging, they will smell of cardboard which means you’ll always need to rinse them anyway.
How do you prepare your decanter before you use it?
The best way to rinse your decanter is by what we call seasoning. You rinse it out with some water then a little bit of wine – though perhaps don’t do this if you’re drinking a very expensive wine! This gets rid of any impurities in the decanter and gets it ready to use.
What’s the best way to clean?
Carbonated water works the best, because the carbonic acid eats away at any stains in the decanter, so a cheap soda or mineral water is perfect. If you wash it soon after use then you won’t need to worry about stains. The only exception is if you’ve enjoyed a particularly rowdy dinner party, perhaps simply rinse it and upend a bottle of soda water in to soak overnight. This goes for cleaning your glasses too: if in doubt, wash or stack in your machine the next day!
What if your decanter already has red wine stains in it?
We provide decanter beads that remove stains. We don’t recommend that you use these on our snake decanters though, as the beads can get stuck in the tail.