All fine wines, old wines particularly so, need a rest after a journey, and require to settle down before being consumed. If this is not practicable, the bottles should be stood up for at least 24 hours before being decanted.
All wines should be unpacked and binned away in cellars of a uniform temperature, if possible, of 500 to 6o° Fahr. An even temperature is of the highest importance, as variations of temperature, excessive heat, or excessive cold are injurious to wine.
The bottles should be placed in the bins with their necks inclined a little downwards to ensure the corks being kept moist by the wine. Otherwise the corks will contract and the wine will suffer by contact with the air and become valueless.
Ports should be binned away with chalk mark uppermost. Other wines with chalk mark or labels uppermost as the case may be.
Champagnes, Graves, Sauternes, Hocks and Moselles should be kept in the coolest, and Clarets, Burgundies and Ports in the warmest part of the cellar.
All sparkling wines should be kept laid down wherever stored for however short a time.
All still wines throw a deposit if kept long in bottle, and care should therefore be exercised in decanting them. This deposit varies from the heavy deposit or crust thrown by Vintage Ports to the fine sediment thrown by Clarets and Burgundies, which make the latter particularly difficult to decant as the sediment being extremely fine is not easy to detect, and having a bitter flavour will spoil the delicacy of the wine if allowed to pass into the decanter.
Ordinary Port from the wood, will throw a fine sediment if kept too long in bottle before use, and if not decanted will, though otherwise quite sound, appear dull and cloudy when served. Sherry will also throw a deposit if kept for any length of time in bottle.
Vintage Ports will show all the better if decanted about eight hours before dinner, and old bottled Clarets improve greatly if decanted one or two hours before dinner and the stopper removed from the decanter to allow the wine to breathe.
Vintage Port should be decanted at the bin in the cellar.
Fine Claret to acquire the proper temperature should be stood up in the dining room the morning it is to be consumed and should be decanted as above mentioned. This is far preferable to warming the decanter.
All wines should be decanted keeping the bottle in a nearly horizontal position with the same side uppermost as in the bin, and it is best done in front of a lighted candle.
Except by experts, vintage Port, fine Claret and Burgundy should be decanted through very fine clean muslin, and care be taken to stop the operation directly any of the sediment or crust appears in the wine passing through the neck of the bottle, which should on no account be allowed to pass into the decanter, as otherwise the presence of any of the sediment in the decanter will destroy the delicacy and flavour of the wine. A decanting funnel is recommended for decanting good wines.
It should be remembered that many a good bottle of wine has been spoilt by neglect to wipe the lip and neck of the bottle before decanting, or by neglect to use a clean decanter, clean muslin or a clean strainer.
With regard to decanting very old wines, such as old vintage Ports, it is best to remove the neck of the bottle below the cork with a pair of tongs which are supplied for this purpose. The tongs are heated and the neck of the bottle gripped just below the cork. On removing the tongs apply to the neck of the bottle where the tongs have held it a piece of rag dipped in cold water. The neck will then come off easily and cleanly.
Never serve wines, particularly Claret, Burgundy or Port, in a decanting basket. It should always be decanted. No wine should be served that is defective or “corky ” (a term used to indicate wine that has been tainted and gives forth a smell, however slight, of a bad cork).
Fine wine deserves line glass. Serve in large thin glasses and only two-thirds filled. To connoisseurs the bouquet is as attractive as the flavour.
Champagne is often served too cold. The bottle should be put in an ice bucket for not longer than twenty minutes before use. Never put ice in the wine. When opening Champagne remove all wire and foil before drawing the cork, and wipe the lip of the bottle, otherwise the wine will be tainted by running over the dirty wire, etc.
French white still wines, such as Graves, Sau-ternes and Barsac and German Moselles will improve greatly by being put on ice in the same way as Champagne.
From the Book “Harry” of Ciro’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails by Harry MacElhone, London, 1921.