Part 3: Please note: this article will be released in several sections. Each part will be a new FOR THE VIN blog post, and all the sections will be combined in their entirety as a booklet. It will be available to read online or download in Wine-A-Reads bookshop at wineville.net after all sections have been released.
Chapter 5: Crank, Lever & Pull
Once the bottle has been presented to the party host and accepted as the correct bottle, the opening procedure can begin. A screw cap can simply be twisted off, obviously. This brings you directly to the sample/pour stage. The sampling will be described in the next chapter, but it should be noted that its purpose is to establish that no cork taint has spoiled the wine, so is a redundancy in screw-top bottles. Assuming then that you are faced with a cork, or a plastic cork substitute, the pre-opening, as described in chapter 4 should have left the cork exposed with a clean cut in the foil or wax around it.
You should be using a two-tier lever wine crank for the uncorking. (See Fig. 5-1)
Avoid the use of silly gadgets, two-armed ‘jumping-jack’ wine openers, or non-levered corkscrews. A two-prong wine butler-style opener is great for older corks and completely acceptable for any. (See Fig. 5-2)
The curves of the screw, or worm, should be about the same length as a standard cork, so insert directly into the middle of the cork and turn until all the curves are embedded in the cork. Failure to go deep enough can result in a broken cork and too far will break open the bottom of the cork and possibly crumble bits into the wine. Use both tiers to smoothly lever the cork to almost out, then pry/turn the cork out, avoiding a popping sound. Turn out the screw from the cork and present it to the guest for inspection. Corks often have the name of the wine on them to prove that the wine within is indeed what the label suggests. There have been scams in the past that warranted this cork presentation. It is often assumed that presenting the cork is for checking to smell if the wine is corked. While it may be possible to detect a corked wine from the cork, corks generally smell like cork, so are not the best way to do so. Sniffing the wine itself is a much better method of detecting cork taint and other common faults. The guest should be prompted to once again acknowledge acceptance of the wine, before continuing to the pour stage.
Chapter 6: Sediment & Decanting
The cork is out. The guests are thirsty. There are still, however, protocols to adhere to. If the wine has a cork, there is the possibility of cork taint. If the wine is red and likely to be tannic or contain sediment, it should be decanted. It can be assumed that if the wine is white and has no cork, that poring can commence. All of these factors should be considered before deciding how to proceed. You should make the recommendation to the next step, but once again allow the guest to decide.
Red wine will usually benefit from being decanted. The exception to this is very light, low tannin wines. Younger full-bodied reds are decanted to add oxygen and open up the flavour. Aged reds will often have sediment that should be removed before pouring. Sediment is mostly formed from the tannins that, through maturation, clump together to form small bits and drop out of the liquid to the bottom of the bottle. These are bitter and should be left in the bottle during decanting, as described in chapter 1. (See Fig. 1-3)
A clear glass or crystal decanter should be used for the decanting process. There are many great shapes and sizes available, with often elaborate and stylish designs. A lit candle is traditionally placed behind the bottle to highlight the sediment and allow for the maximum amount of wine poured into the decanter, with the minimum amount of sediment. If the wine is likely to be tannic, the wine should be poured with an emphasis on oxygenation. If it is well aged and has already lost much of the tannin, it should be poured gently, as too much oxygen will lighten already subtle flavors and aromas. A highly tannic wine can benefit from a lengthy period between decanting and tasting to allow more oxygenation. Once the wine is decanted, the sample pour can begin.