The approach of Cépage when it comes to wine appreciation is very much rooted in personal discovery and freedom. It has never been to dictate instructions that people must adhere to in order to enjoy their wine, nor tell our wine loving customers the wine they should be drinking. So, when we talk about something less conventional, whether it be an obscure wine pairing, chilling bottles of red etc, it’s merely a guideline. Who are we to tell you the best way to enjoy what you drink?! I’ve had enormous personal success in decanting sparkling wine, much to many people’s disbelief, and sometimes dismay, so I want to shed some light on the subject, and why I enjoy it.
I will admit, I do struggle to keep up with people when it comes to sparkling wine. The bubbles get to me; I enter a stage of inebriation after only a couple of glasses. Usually, this may take between three quarters and one and a half bottles of regular still wine. Bubbles loosen my inhibitions. After half the bottle, I am ear to ear grinning. Starting a meal with sparkling wine for me, always sets a precedent. The bubbles never agree with me, but oh, the taste is magnificent. The saline freshness entangled with some oxidative characteristics favoured by certain Champagne houses can rarely be beaten. I always make the same mistake, having a second bottle. Sparkling wine should, I believe, be treated with an equal level of respect, care and attention as any still, fine wine might be. Sparkling wines are equally, if not more vinous.
Decanting my sparkling wine acts as a slight insurance policy against substantial inebriation. Lest us forget that Champagne traditionally, was a region rooted in still Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines, the only other region to really rival Burgundy for finesse (Coteaux Champenois will make a comeback, I am sure). The mousse or texture of the bubbles in a sparkling wine vary massively, and I do not enjoy overly fizzy sparkling wine. Decanting tames and softens the bubbles, similar to drinking a sparkling wine in a coupe, as in the 1920s, or a normal wine glass over a flute (which keeps the bubbles for longer).
I don’t hesitate in letting certain wines breathe either, allowing a bottle to stretch its legs as some might put it. Just as we may allow a closed and youthful Chablis Grand Cru, or a wonderfully mature ready to go Hermitage or Super Tuscan time out of the bottle before it touches our lips; I take an initial sip of the sparkling wine to decide whether it would benefit from some air, too.
Reductive winemaking limits the juice and grapes’ exposure to oxygen during the winemaking process. It provides aromas which often hide in the wine's youth, unfurling as bottle ageing takes place. This is often the case with higher quality wines such as Burgundy and many English sparkling wines. Inexpensive wines destined to be drunk young (New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or South African Chenin) tend to be made reductively to retain their freshness.
Not only do the bubbles dilute, but the flavours permeate the glass more rigorously, especially if the wine is made reductively. Wines with extended exposure to oxygen through barrel ageing may not fare well with decanting. Indeed, the bubbles will dilute, but too much exposure to oxygen too quickly may render the wine nullified in flavour, lacking total depth. Hence, I always taste a sip in order to decide.
The sparkling wines I love to decant
A superstar collaboration only made in the best years. Decanting this bottle allows the floral components to come to the fore,
A youthful, aromatic English sparkling brimming with potential from an opulent vintage.
Decanting this 100% Chardonnay creates a wine reminiscent of Grand Cru Burgundy, made from vines dating back to 1926!
Roebuck Rosé de Noirs | Kent, England
Soon to be on the Cépage collection. A savoury English sparkling