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Saturday 10 September 2011

Wines That Improve With Air‏

I have written a couple of times already about the effect of air on wine (here and here).

In the simplest terms, a wine will generally open up and improve with a bit of air, but too much exposure to air will eventually spoil it.

Getting the right amount of exposure of the wine to air is more a case of trial and error than of there being any hard and fast rules.

I often take a couple of days to finish a bottle of wine - if we don't finish it all off one evening or if it's something I'm reviewing and I want to see how it develops.

From my unscientific observations, it seems that full-bodied wines with lower alcohol contents, and for reds plenty of tannins, seem to be able to take more air than riper, more fruit-driven wines with an extra few degrees of alcohol.

This is about as much guidance as I can give on the subject and I should also add I've found plenty of exceptions to this rule-of-thumb, too - such as 14% wines from the Rhone or the Wachau which don't reach a peak until they've had a couple of days' airing in an opened and resealed bottle.

However, a friend emailed me the other day with a related question; he explained that he and his wife were until recently in the habit of sharing a mid-week bottle of wine, but as she is now pregnant, he finds a full bottle a bit too much if he has work the next day.

However, saving it until the following evening doesn't seem to work either as by then the wine has faded.

Did I have any suggestions ?

Options I considered and rejected were:

- only buy half bottles (too limiting)
- change to beer (just not a long-term option)
- cocktails (ditto, and too fiddly anyway)

Instead, I suggested he buy wines that will improve with a bit of air and then they will actually be better on the second day.

It turns out that he buys a lot of his wines from the Sunday Times Wine Club (supplied by Laithwaites) and Naked Wines.

Of the two, I am more impressed by Naked (read what I think of Laithwaites here), but in both cases the wines generally tend to impress straight out of the bottle rather than improving significantly with extended airing.

However, I thought back to the wines that I have found most improved with a decent amount of air and that are priced at a similar level to Naked and Laithwaites and came up with a list of four priced around £8-£10 from Cambridge Wine Merchants, as their wines often seem to improve significantly with some air.

I then emailed Hal Wilson at CWM to ask if he could recommend two more wines to make up a half case and the result is my suggested mixed half-case of wines that you do not need to drink all in one go as they will actually improve with some air and be better on the second day.

To get the most out of them on the first day, I suggest using a decanter and plenty of vigorous swirling in a large glass.


Collines De Laure - an autumnal, inky, northern Rhone Syrah (reviewed here)
Rousseau de Sipian - a wonderfully textured Bordeaux (reviewed here)
Dom Sarabande 2009 Faugeres


Domanie de la Rablais - a classic minerally Loire (reviewed here)
Alpha Zeta Garganega - a mouthfilling and crisp Italian (reviewed here)
Chablis 2009 Jean Marc Brocard

Cambridge Wine Merchants are based not just in Cambridge, but also Royston, Amphill and Edinburgh; they also deliver nationally.


Cambridge Wine Merchants - http://www.cambridgewine.com/

Image credit: http://sedimentality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Decanter.gif

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