The holidays will be here before we know it and generally, holiday parties mean opening up those hidden gems we have in our cellars: old wines. Whether you've aged them yourself or bought them years after they were released, this post will help you through three steps to successfully open your precious aged wine.
Ideally, the aged wine you want to open has been stored on its side in a cool, dark, humid environment for its whole life. If you bought a wine already aged, then you can bet it's been stored well. With an aged bottle you've just received, let it sit for a few weeks before opening it to let the sediment settle.
When you've decided on your event at which you want to open your wine, stand your bottle upright to let the sediment sink to the bottom. How long you do this depends on how old your wine is: anywhere from a few hours to a month. If your wine is less than twenty years old a few hours or days should do the trick. If it's up to forty years old, let it stand for closer to a month.
When you're ready to open your wine, you have a few options. Make sure the liquid in the bottle is clear; you can do this by shining a light (like a bright flashlight or a candle) through the bottle.
If your wine is under twenty years old you can still easily use a normal corkscrew with little trouble. If it's older, or you suspect the cork is degraded, use an Ah-So. This two-pronged gadget wiggles in between the cork and the bottle and gently lifts it out in one piece.
If the cork gets pushed into the bottle whole or the cork crumbles into the bottle, don't panic. Your wine isn't ruined and there is still a way to enjoy your aged bottle.
Depending on the type of wine you're opening, a great way to separate the sediment from the rest of the liquid is to decant it. Gently pour your wine into a decanter, shining a flashlight or candle underneath the neck so you're able to stop pouring once sediment reaches the neck of the bottle.
If you're enjoying a bottle of wine that is a less-tannic grape, it's advisable to not decant, as the extra oxygen could dilute flavors and cause the wine to flop. Old Burgundy are a good example of this. However, you can easily separate sediment from the wine without decanting. Strain the wine through unbleached cheesecloth if you have high amounts of cork crumbles or sediment, or it's a less tannic wine.
What bottles are you hoping to open this holiday season? Let us know in the comments on Facebook!