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View Full Version : To decant or not to decant?...



ken_schramm
03-28-2008, 05:35 PM
...That is the question. After opening a 15 year old metheglin the other night that did not begin showing its glory until it had seen better than 45 minutes of air (and that was only in my glass), I began to wonder: how many meads, and particularly how many older meads, would benefit substantially from a 30 or 60 minute decant in glass?

I'm curious to know how many other denizens do or don't decant on a regular basis. Those who do, what evolution do you experience in the mead?

Mine went from aromatically reticent and a bit cranky (edgy acidity) on the tongue to the nose opening up beautifully, pushing both honeyed depth and great nutmeg and clove notes, and having the acidity soften to a balancing counterpoint to the minimal residual sugar. It helped the mead out immensely.

Whady'all think? Are you decanting?

Ken

wayneb
03-28-2008, 06:18 PM
I have decanted every bottle of my "well aged" stock (as in over 10 years old) before serving, mostly because I was not as careful a meadmaker in the early years, and I have had more than a few bottles with sediment built up as a result.

The meads have all benefitted from a little time with exposure to that air. The most obvious one was a bottle of crabapple-chokecherry that went from an aroma when first poured reminiscent of an old patent medicine elixir, to after about 15 minutes in the decanter, a musky, deep rich cherry which held for many minutes in the glass. I definitely believe that a little O2 mixed in works wonders on all those pent-up aromatics.

I have not decanted my newer meads (Usually there's too much of a clamor to serve ASAP! :D ), so I can't say whether or not the effect would be the same in them.

Oskaar
03-28-2008, 06:43 PM
I'm pretty much armed to the teeth with decanters. I use them on my wine and mead, sometimes beer too as I find that the exposure to air really opens up the older stuff, and takes the edge off the newer stuff. A young, impetuous Cabernet will mellow nicely, as will an old big Zin, I've found that my oak aged meads really benefit from decanting.

Cheers,

Oskaar

liff
03-28-2008, 07:09 PM
The nice thing about decanting is when you bottled a little too early, this is a great way to get the sediment out.

I have decanted every bottle of my "well aged" stock (as in over 10 years old) before serving, mostly because I was not as careful a meadmaker in the early years, and I have had more than a few bottles with sediment built up as a result.

It would seem like we all make some of the same mistakes at the beginning.

The other nice thing is presentation. This can be impressive to the uniniatiated.

Liff

Medsen Fey
03-29-2008, 11:19 AM
Ken,

I can tell you, with complete and total envy, that I would like to have such an issue to ponder. Why, I'll only have to wait another 13 years or so to figure out how best to serve a 15 year old mead (assuming any of mine can make it that long and still be drinkable).
Oh well....

What I can say is that I am already a proponent for decanting. In my experience drinking a number of well-aged Bordeaux and Burgundy wines and some California Cabs that decanting them is extremely helpful. Usually about 1/2 hour helps bring them fully to life - I have yet to meet one that I thought was poorer for having been decanted.

With mead, my experience is much more limited, but some of my early meads (which are certainly not the best - and which tend to have a lot of fusels) certainly benefit from decanting. Letting some of those "youthful vapors" clear makes them tastier, and so I think both young and old meads may benefit.

skunkboy
03-30-2008, 11:02 PM
Yes, decanting can be very helpful with bottles from when you working mostly in the dark.
Like the following with over 2 inches of floating lees in the bottom ... ;)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/23157844@N08/2375451319/

UDV
05-21-2008, 10:41 PM
I'm ridiculously jealous over a 15 year aged bottle of mead.

That being said, I have nothing in the mead family that could be aged that well.

Speaking of experience with wine though, I decant all my heavy reds at least 30 minutes, and it makes a huge difference so I imagine some properly aged mead like that would benefit from the same.

Teufelhund
05-24-2008, 03:20 PM
Hi Ken!

Good question. I almost always decant any reds that I have but not too often with my meads but I can see where the intro to O2 would bring out the natural essence of the meads.
Getting rid of the other anaerobic gasses would be the issue and it would depend on the yeast to determine the length of exposure, right? Is it safe to pre-suppose that 'red' yeasts are better suited for longer storage and have characteristics that are best when exposed to O2? What was the recipe, if I may ask?
Also, wouldn't the ingredients affect the aromas, as far as O2 exposure? Such as strong herbs or perhaps a citrus, that are basically astringents? Meaning that those types do better when exposed longer to O2 than, say, just plain honey and blueberries. Make any sense?

:cheers:

DD

ken_schramm
05-26-2008, 04:58 PM
I don 't really have any pre-tasting judgments on which yeasts might fare better with age or air. Plenty of French whites hit their real strides at 10 or 15 years, white Burgundies and Sauternes in particular.

The mead was a metheglin based loosely on some of the better spiced meads we saw in the early Mazer Cups. Knowing what I do now, I would not make this this way. The recipe was:

8/15/92

15 lbs Michigan White clover Honey
2 t Yeast nutrient
1.5 t Yeast energizer
2 T loose black currant tea
2 t dried ginger
1 t cloves
2 t nutmeg
2 2.5" sticks cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
3 t vanilla extract
1 t citric acid
2 t ascorbic acid


Boiled 4.5 gallons H2O, cut heat, added all ingredients, steep 20 mins, force chilled to 72F, pitched
10 g EC-1118

Yield ~ 6 gallons
OG 1.090
FG not recorded

If I were making this now, I would:
Use D-47.
Up the honey to 18 lbs, use 3.5 gallons H2O
Skip the acids until after fermentation
Reduce tea to 1 T
Reduce the cloves to 1/4 tsp.