Thursday, June 6, 2019

L'importance de l'Avinage : Aviner la carafe avant décantation du vin !!!

L'importance de l'Avinage : 

Aviner la carafe avant décantation du vin !!!

Although the title of this post is in French, I will write this post in English, as I normally do, as the audience of LeDomduVin is international, and thus English being the universal language, it will be easier for most readers. *  

So, 2 days ago, I made this little video (above) to stress and insist on the importance of the "Avinage" of the decanter (ou "aviner la carafe" as we say in French), which is basically a part of the preparation of the decanter prior to proceeding to the decantation of the wine (or the preparation of a new barrel prior putting wine into it).

In my opinion, it is a crucial point (or step) of the wine decantation process that Sommeliers and other wine professionals (people in the wine biz in general) tend to forget or not do at all. And in my eyes, it is a terrible mistake not to do it. I have been in the wine business and a well seasoned and traveled, certified Sommelier for the past 28 years, and I have always done it (even at home).

Call me "old school" if you want, but for me, the "Avinage" of the decanter (prior decantation) is a question of principle (as it is how I learned to do it at the Catering and Hotel management school of Talence, Bordeaux), and it is logical too (as it is common sense to clean a decanter that has been sitting on a shelf prior putting some wine into it, isn't it?), and thus, it should be a reflex for all people working in the wine industry, but obviously, it is not. And that is the main reason why I made this video in the first place.

I watched dozens of videos on wine decantation and wine service on YouTube and realized that for 95% of them, none of the Sommeliers and other wine professionals proceeding to the decantation of wine (in these videos) did the "avinage" of the decanter in which the wine was about to be decanted in. None. And it drove the need for me to this video to remind people of the importance of doing it.

And, for the anecdote, even the Best Sommelier of the World 2019, Marc Almert, did not do the "Avinage" of the decanter during the final (you can check it in the video of the final here at 2:59:38). In fact, 2 out of the 3 finalists did not do it... unbelievable! Maybe it is a generational issue and the new generation may not see the point or is too lazy to do it, go figure... or maybe, I'm just an old grumpy Sommelier too attached to the traditions and the Art of the service to be able to fully understand why they do not do it anymore...   or may it is a combination of both, who knows....

Pardon my French, but I searched everywhere online and in various dictionaries, and, trust me, there is no literal translation in English for these two French words. Therefore, for those of you who may have no clue about what I'm talking about, here is a clue. In both words, "Avinage" and "Aviner", you have the word "vin" or "wine" in French.

In general, the words "Avinage" (the noun) or "Aviner" (the verb) are terms more particularly used for wine, rather than any other liquids (e.g. with water only is call "rinsing", with detergent, is called "washing", etc...).

Both, "Avinage" and "Aviner", refer to the same action, and by definition, "Aviner" is the action of the "Avinage", which consists of pouring a small amount of wine into a barrel for example (before fermentation or aging process, especially for new barrels) or in a decanter (prior proceeding to the decantation and fill it with wine), then swirling the bit of wine inside energetically, and evacuating it rapidly (in order for anything inside to come out with the wine), prior to filling the barrel or the decanter.

LeDomduVin pouring wine into a decanter to do the Avinage
prior proceeding to the wine decantation ©LeDomduVin 2019

Or, basically put, "Aviner" is the action of soaking the inside of a decanter (a barrel or any other containers) with a small amount of wine, prior to filling it, (for the purpose of this post we are talking about pouring wine into a decanter), to either or both (at the same time):
  • Clean the inside of the decanter from the presence of potential dust, water, previous wine,  residues or any other unwanted foreign or harmful organisms, organic decays or other substances
  • Impregnate the inside of the decanter with the odors, smells, aromas, and flavors of the wine used, prior fill it with the rest of the wine in the bottle. 

LeDomduVin pouring and swirling wine into a decanter to do the Avinage
prior proceeding to the wine decantation ©LeDomduVin 2019

Once the wine has been swirled around inside to coat the inner part of the decanter (or the barrel), the wine is poured out back in a glass (or another container), and only then, the decanter (or barrel) is now ready to welcome the wine that will be decanted (or racked) into it.

Although this practice has existed for decades, (if not centuries), sadly, it has almost been forgotten and is rarely done nowadays. Yet, it has always been a very important part/step of the decantation process. And in my opinion, it should be done every time you use a decanter.

Historically, it is hard to pinpoint when and where this practice started first. All we know is that it has always pretty much been done for cleaning purposes as well as the impregnation of the aromas and flavors, for sure; but maybe (and understandably), also for the protection and security of the kings, the nobles and the wealthy in order to rinse the decanter and eliminate all sort of potential danger (from vile enemies trying to murder them with poison or else for example). 

In fact, nowaday's lack of cleanliness is the main reason why you MUST do it, because, even if decanters are "supposedly" cleaned regularly, on a weekly basis at the minimum, and even at a daily basis, or even twice a day for certain restaurants, this is unfortunately NOT the case in (and/or for) ALL restaurants...  and it is even worst in other places where the decanters are only used "occasionally" and often collect layers of dust by being put on display... (sigh)...

Therefore, you never know what you may have in the decanter. And usually, after a few days (or even worst, if it has been a week or more), there could be some : 
  • Dust if the decanter has not been used and/or cleaned for a while
  • Water if it has been rinsed shortly before and/or not dried properly and/or left standing up after being rinsed     
  • Detergent if it has been accidentally washed with a detergent and has not been rinsed properly enough (that is usually the worst case scenario, as if the avinage is not done prior decantation, the wine will immediately be affected by the detergent and become hazardous)
  • Organic decays or residues of the wine phenolic compounds remaining in the decanter, especially if has never been cleaned properly (you can see them when the decanter starts to have yellow or red markings or stains inside (at the bottom and the inner body part of the decanter), usually left by the layered deposits of phenolic chemical compounds (tannins, anthocyanins, etc...)), these can even attract living organisms feeding on them (fruit fly, wine fly, etc...). 
  • And in some case, you can even have a bit of the wine previously decanted, if the decanter has not been cleaned at all  

I did a second video (right above) where I'm showing you how to do the "Avinage" of the decanter  (ou "comment aviner la carafe avant decantation"), from a different angle than the 1st video and with a close-up on the wine swirling in the decanter. 

Why did I make this second video on the subject of the "Avinage" of the decanter? Because, in fact, I have not managed to find one on the internet or YouTube. In truth, there are many videos where wine professionals and Sommeliers can be seen doing wine decantations, but they do not do the "Avinage" of the decanter prior to the decantation of the wine.

So, I felt the need to do this 2nd little video in addition to the video made previously (the first one on this post) on the same subject, to really insist on how to prepare ("Aviner") the decanter before proceeding to the decantation. 

NB: I did this 2nd video in only one take and very quickly (and under pressure for some reasons), so please excuse me for the mistakes and hesitations in the explanations and overall presentation. More especially, pardon my French for repeating a few times in this video "on avine le vin avec le vin" (meaning "we clean the wine with the wine"), which is wrong, "on avine la carafe avec le vin" (meaning "we clean the decanter with the wine") of course. I put myself under pressure to do this video fast and without any disturbances and therefore did not carefully choose my words like on the first video (which I also did in one take). (I may redo it more relax soon). 

I made a 3rd video (just above), by basically trimming the 2nd video, and focus on the "Avinage" part only, as, (at the end of the day), it is the most important part of the process prior decantation and the subject of this post too.

So, the action of the "Avinage" or the approach you should take on how to clean the decanter  prior proceeding to the decantation of the wine ("Aviner la carafe avant de proceder a la decantation du vin") consists on the following process:
  • Open a bottle of wine
  • Pour a small amount of the wine into a wine glass
  • Smell the wine in the glass to ensure the quality of the wine and make sure it does not present any defaults/defects on the nose 
NB: do not taste the wine and pour the little bit of wine into the decanter after tasting it as you will put your microbes/bacterias inside the decanter too
  • Pour the wine you've just smelled from the glass into a decanter 
  • Swirl the wine inside the decanter for a few seconds, in order to soak the decanter, so that the wine impregnates the inner walls of the decanter with its aromas and flavors
  • Evacuate rapidly the wine from the decanter back into the wine glass
  • Taste the wine (the best part of the process 😊) (as the decanter is supposed to be clean, prior being used, the wine should not be affected by anything previously contained into the decanter)
  • Leave the decanter by the empty bottle previously put with the cork and the capsule (if not put back on the top of the bottle) on a small plate or a coster on the gueridon or on the customer's table until it is time to serve the wine

Et voila!

And this process of "Avinage" only takes a few seconds to do, so you have no excuse not to do it. Moreover, it is the best and only way to ensure that the decanter is clean and free of any residues of any kinds (dust, water, detergent, previous wine, etc..) and that the wine will not be affected by anything foreign that could have been inside the decanter prior to doing the "Avinage". 

In conclusion, please do yourself a favor, and please your customers at the same time, DO the Avinage !!! (and make sure your decanters are cleaned regularly, at least once a day)

Anger Bottle by ©LeDomduVin 2019

To answer the unfriendly, not to say nasty and unjustified comments I received shortly after posting this post

To answer the unfriendly, not to say nasty and unjustified comments I received from some unknown peers in the wine biz (Sommeliers and other supposedly being "wine professionals"), a few days after I posted this post, more especially in reaction to the 3rd video above on the "Avinage of the carafe", I only have the followings to say (even if it is a repeat of what has been said above, and to make sure people understood the importance of this process):

- 1 - In Sommellerie, the decanter is cleaned with a little amount of wine (thus "Aviné") prior to proceeding to the decantation to avoid eventual contamination of the wine by possible debris or liquids that may be found in the decanter, but also to impregnate the inside of the decanter with the aromas and flavors of the wine before decanting. And NO, this is not an ancient procedure from the past when people were more careless and washing technics as well as cleaning products were not as adapted and/or as efficient as they are now... And YES, this procedure should still be in use nowadays. (It is also stupid to think that people were more careless before than they are now, in my opinion, it is probably the other way around)

- 2 - NO, you should not assume that all your decanters are clean and impeccable. As, indeed, they may NOT be as clean and impeccable as you think. Bad smells, dust, water, detergent if accidentally washed with a detergent, (or others), could have found their way inside; and it would be stupid and ignorant from you to assume that it is not the case as it cannot happen, and even more stupid of you to think that all decanters are always clean and free of anything inside. I have worked in the restaurant business as Head Sommelier and Restaurant Manager long enough to know that it is not true and it is far from being the reality in most restaurants.

- 3 - A lot of things that are supposed to be done (and are assumed to be done too) by the Sommeliers and/or other restaurant's staffs are unfortunately not always done or not necessarily done properly and not always checked by the Head Sommelier or the Restaurant Manager. And let's be serious, we all know people slacking off on the job, who constantly tell lies about things they do or did while they actually did not, unfortunately.  It is human nature. So, never assume they have done it, check!!!

- 4 - A Sommelier's job is to make sure that the decanters are properly cleaned after each use and make sure that all decanters are cleaned at least once a day, if not, at least every other day. Yet, there again, it would be stupid, ignorant and innocent to a fault to believe that cleaning of all the decanters is done on a daily basis in all the restaurants, everywhere in the world. As I said above, I know the restaurant and hospitality world all too well, and I have seen too many absurd and even sometimes unspeakable things done by the restaurant and hotel staff. And trust me, even in the strictest restaurant or hotel in the world, where the staff receive excellent training and art of the table and service education and are disciplined, there are many things that should be done on a daily basis and that are not. So, please, stop assuming and check on what your staff is doing!!!

- 5 - The "avinage" of the decanter IS and has always been a crucial part of the decantation process, unfortunately too often forgotten as not been taught in restaurant and Sommelier School anymore, due to the assumption that decanters are always clean and impeccable, and therefore that the "avinage" is no longer necessary. This assumption is terribly wrong, for all the reasons provided above:

  • Assuming all decanters are always clean and impeccable
  • Ignoring the potential presence of bad smells, dust, water, detergent if accidentally washed with a detergent, or others
  • Not accepting the fact that decanters may not have been cleaned properly and may not have been checked by the management
  • Trusting without checking people slacking off on the job and not doing what they are supposed to be doing
  • Assuming people are always doing their job without checking what they have done
  • Believing that the "avinage" is an old procedure that has no reason to exist any longer 

This list is non-exhaustive and I could continue to add other arguments and reasons to why the "avinage" is still of major importance in the decantation process and why it should be done. But I will stop here, as I feel exhausted and disappointed to read all the nasty comments of so many people who believe they are right while they are actually wrong, and assume they know better than anyone else, when the reality of things around them in restaurant and hotel is telling them the opposite of what they believe to be true. So, once and for all, put in your pea brain that NO, not all decanters are always clean and impeccable, and NO, not all Sommelier and other restaurant and hotel staff are doing their job properly, and NO, do not assume that you don't have to check on them either.   

I wrote this last paragraph especially to directly answer a Sommelier (of my age roughly), working supposedly as a teacher in a Sommelier School in Paris, and who wrote a list of really nasty, judgemental, arrogant and pretentious comments to my post (with the 3rd video above) on my LinkedIn profile, which really pissed me off and irritated me to the core, beyond believe (and it has been a long time I felt such anger against someone).

To tell you the truth, I hate when people strongly judge and criticize when they don't even know or have no relation whatsoever with you or the person they are spitting nonsense about (the French are usually good for that, unfortunately). And I also hate nasty, judgemental, arrogant, pretentious, snob and up their nose Sommeliers! (And God knows they are plenty of them in this world.... sigh).

Sorry for ranting like that, but sometimes it is good to shout it out instead of keeping it inside.

Cheers! Santé!

LeDomduVin a.k.a. Dominique Noël 

Leave me a comment below to let me know what you think about these videos.
They are in French, I know, it is a bit difficult if you do not speak/understand it, but I will try to make some videos in English too soon. 😊 

* Anyhow, you also have the translation button option at the top of the right-hand side column if really needed 😉

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