Being an expert on wine varietals, regions, and vocabulary is all well and good, but you’re never going to be much of a wine connoisseur if you haven’t mastered the basics… like how to properly open and decant a bottle.
While there are plenty of tools to open wine bottles with, let’s start with any wine drinker’s best friend: the humble corkscrew. To properly open a bottle of wine using a corkscrew, just follow these basic steps:
Cut the foil
Using the foil cutter, place the blade firmly under the lip of the bottle, and with two or three motions, cut the foil just below the lip of the raised band at the top of the bottle.
Place the screw
Position the tip of the screw onto the cork at a slight angle, so when you twist the screw, it goes into the middle of the cork.
Hinge and pull
Lastly, place the hinge of the corkscrew on the lip of the bottle. Place one hand firmly over the hinge and the neck of the bottle, and use your other hand to pull the handle and lift the cork out.
Sniff the Cork
Far from being just a performative display, this is actually a crucial step that allows you to make sure the wine smells fresh and ready to drink.
Once your bottle is open, it’s time to decant. If you’re on the fence about whether or not you should decant at all, here are a few good reasons to do so:
Decanting allows the wine to come to room temperature (between 70 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit), which helps bring out its aromas and tasting notes.
Size of the Bottle
Larger bottles of wine—like our 1.5L magnum bottle of JUSTIFICATION—may be difficult for your guests to pour. A decanter makes things more manageable.
When you pour a younger wine—like our 2017 JUSTIFICATION—into a decanter, the wine mixes with oxygen, which softens the tannins, making them smoother on the palate. In older wines—like our 2011 JUSTIFICATION—phenolic compounds like tannins can form together as the wine ages, creating sediment, which can be bitter to taste. The process of decanting can help prevent sediment from making it into your glass.
Speaking of older wines, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when decanting them:
When removing a bottle from the wine rack, gently move the bottle to an upright position a few hours before decanting, which allows any potential sediment to settle at the bottom of the bottle.
Be careful when removing the cork. Remember, older corks can be more brittle, so please take your time!
Now it’s time to decant. Start pouring the wine into the decanter by slowly tilting the bottle. Keep an eye out for a thin stream of sediment and stop pouring just before it enters the neck of the bottle. To more clearly see potential sediment in your wine, you can illuminate the bottle by placing your phone on the table with the flashlight shining upward. To pour as much sediment-free wine as possible, lightly shift the bottle upright to let the sediment settle, then continue pouring again.
Last but not least comes the most difficult step: letting the wine sit in your decanter for one or two hours before serving. At this point, the only thing left to do is be patient, then pour yourself a glass and enjoy it.