I opened a bottle of Domaine Maby’s La Fermade Lirac Blanc recently (Wine Society, £10.50) and, as usual, immediately had a sniff of the wine to check for any faults. No obvious problems – no smell of corkiness or oxidation. But wait! There was also no smell of any fruit or spice or any of the aromas I expect from a nice southern Rhône white. The nose of the wine was completely dumb and, when I tasted it, there wasn’t much coming through on the palate, either. This surprised me as, although I’d never bought this wine before, others from the same producer had always been excellent quality.
I decided to decant it, not something I often do with a white, but, by aerating it, I hoped to ‘wake it up’ and let it show what it had to offer. But, all through dinner, my wife and I kept tasting it and still got very little. Then, later in the evening, I decided to try again – there was plenty left in the decanter as neither of us had poured much up to that point. Suddenly, all that I’d hoped for from this wine came out: lovely flavours of cooked apples and spices backed by a real richness.
Did it continue to improve? I can’t say. Perhaps it might have been perfect about 2am the following morning but that was too late. By then, my wife and I were safely asleep!
Fast forward to dinner the next evening, when there was still enough left for a glass each. Fully 24 hours after first pulling the cork, there was, understandably, a touch of oxidation (I hadn’t bothered to vacuum seal the wine as I normally would), but the wine itself was perfectly pleasant, although it had, once again, lost its fruit.
This certainly isn’t an everyday experience, especially not with a white wine, but it does show that, for certain wines, decanting early is the only way to develop the flavours the winemaker intended. But, to avoid our initial disappointment, it would have been helpful if the label had suggested it!