Decanting may appear to be a complex task, however it is a relatively easily mastered skill. Older Vintage or Library Ports from Ficklin will require decanting prior to serving, and with some attention to detail, it will become an elegant experience for you and your guests.
Cork is a time-honored and traditional wine bottle closure. Corks are also a natural product, made from the bark of the Cork Oak. No two corks are the same, much like snowflakes -- this video illustrates the easy removal of a cork from an older bottle of Port.
So you're saving a bottle of a Vintage Port for a special occasion -- perhaps planning to open it in this holiday season or an upcoming celebration. You may have accumulated several older Ficklin Vintages, and are waiting for that special occasion to un-cork and enjoy. But, you might have some hesitation and concern over the idea of having to carefully decant that bottle before serving. Fear not... decanting a wine is a relatively simple task, and can be easily mastered and elevated to quite an elegant presentation. Decanting is a traditional process used to separate the clear Port for serving from the sediment which may have some slightly bitter flavors to it.
All Vintage Ports will develop some sediment through the years, and slowly deposit these on the inside of the bottle with ageing. Since they are bottled at a young age, Vintage Ports slowly change through the years, maturing, softening, and developing that unique complexity we so enjoy. Some of the sediments may form a "crust" on the inside of the bottle, and still cling to the glass even after decanting.
Required for the task are some simple tools -- primarily a reliable light source and a suitable and clean decanter. The idea is to allow the sediments to deposit on the bottom of the bottle, and then carefully pouring the clear wine off, separating it from and leaving the remaining sediment in the bottle. With a little attention to detail this is easily done, and with some additional flair, it can become quite an impressive tradition.
The light source can be anything from a candle to a small flashlight stood on end or supported in a small glass. The decanter may vary in shape, but should be big enough to hold the entire contents of the bottle. Make sure it is clean and dry.
Most wine is stored laying on the side or upside down, both with the neck and cork of the bottle in a lower position to retain some moisture in the cork and maintain the seal. For decanting purposes, we will require the sediment to be on the bottom of the bottle as it stands upright. Consequently, it is important to allow enough time for the disturbed sediment to re-settle in that position. Place the bottle in a convenient location, standing it upright for at least overnight, if possible.
When it comes time to decant, be careful not to suddenly move, tilt, or jar the bottle when removing the cap and cork. All of those actions may stir up a bit of the sediment and some of the clear Port may become slightly muddy. The bottle may be moved to a serving table for decanting, but be careful to keep it in the upright position.
The light source allows one to see through the neck of the bottle and determine at what point sediment from the bottom begins to flow through the neck indicating that the decanting is done. As you begin to pour the Port into the decanter, it is important to remember that it should be done in a slow and continuous motion, without tipping the bottle back and forth as in pouring wine into various wine glasses. This tipping motion will "slosh" the remaining Port in the bottle, and of course disturb the sediment that has settled on the bottom. When sediment begins to appear in the neck of the bottle when pouring, tip the bottle back to an upright position, and the decanting process is complete.
At this point, you may serve the Port in individual glasses, poured from the decanter. Of course, the bottle may be passed around so that everyone may inspect the label. By using a candle and perhaps a crystal decanter, there is a certain elegance associated with the opening and serving for your guests.
I have used the flashlight in a glass when decanting in the laboratory, but prefer the traditional candle for the simply stated elegance. Allow this traditional ritual to become a part of your Port enjoyment!
It's coming up on 70 years -- Ficklin Vineyards was founded that long ago. The Articles of Incorporation were filed with then Secretary of State of California, Frank M. Jordan, on September 30, 1946. Of course, there will be celebration.
David Ficklin, my father, served as winemaker for Ficklin Vineyards from 1948 to early 1982 when he retired... 34 years. I have been full-time with Ficklin VIneyards for 39 years, and served as Winemaker to Ficklin Vineyards for 36 years. Of course, there will be celebration.
I look forward to 100 years of Ficklin Vineyards -- I will be 93, by then, that might be "the new 73". Besides, they say when you're doing what you love, it isn't work anyway. Maybe we'll pull the cork on a couple of the '48s. Of course, there will be celebration.
Thoughts about the
passion of Port from the
Peter grew up at the winery, and completed a degree in Enology from the University of California, Davis in 1978. He then joined his father at Ficklin Vineyards as Assistant WInemaker. In 1983, Peter became Winemaker, and in 2012 accepted the Wine Lifetime Achievement Award from the California State Fair. Peter continues today as President of the family corporation and as the hands-on winemaker.