Today, thanks to the author of The footman's directory, and butler's remembrancer we find out the experienced footman’s way of decanting wine in 1823.
Before we begin with the conducting of the dinner I shall make a few remarks on decanting wine, as this is a thing in which many gentlemen are very particular.
In the decanting wine you must be careful not to shake or disturb the crust of it, when you draw the cork, or move it about, especially Port wine. You must have a good corkscrew, and a wine-strainer, with some fine cambrick in it; never decant wine without this, to prevent the crust and bits of cork going into the decanter. Let your decanters be clean, and, when you draw a cork, put the bottle on the floor, place your feet at each side, then take the corkscrew in the right hand, and with the left press the bottle firmly on the floor, keeping it upright, which is easily done by putting the left hand on the neck of the bottle: the corkscrew should be put quite through the centre of the cork, or else you will break the cork in. If you have to move Port wine, you will find it best to keep the same side uppermost which was in the cellar; this in general is marked with a stripe of white. When you decant Port wine, you ought not to drain it too near ; there are generally two thirds of a wine-glass of thick dregs in each bottle, which ought not to be put in, but in white wine there is not much settling; you must be careful, however, not to let what little there is go into the decanter, as it is much finer than the dregs of the Port: when you decant it therefore, you must pour it off slowly, and raise the bottle up gradually; the wine should never be decanted in a hurry, therefore always do it before the family sits down to dinner.
If there be company to dinner, and several sorts of wine should be wanted, you must be very careful not to mix them, or label them incorrectly; for, if you do, it will cause sad confusion; you will not be able to know the different sorts of wine by their colour; therefore, to prevent mistakes, have a number of written labels if you have not enough of silver ones, to put on all the bottles, and let those which are undrawn be labelled as well as those which are drawn; this will be the surest way to prevent mistakes: the written ones you can make a slit in, to let the neck of the bottle through. If there should not be decanters enough, to hold a sufficiency of wine for the company while at dinner, and for the dessert also, take out the corks as before directed and put them lightly in again, and let your wine-strainer be in readiness, that you may have nothing to do but to pour it off when wanted; this will keep you from being in a flurry and making it thick while doing it.
Be careful not to jostle the decanters against each other when you move them about, as they easily break when full, and likewise not to place them in any situation that may endanger their safety; put them in a place where you can lock them up. If the weather is hot, you must keep the wine in a cool place till wanted; if it is very cold, and the company like the chill taken off, let it stand a little distance from the dining-room fire, but most likely your employers will tell you when they wish this to be done.
And the recipe for the day is ……
To improve Vitiated Wines.
Take a pint of clarified honey, a pint of water in which raisins of the sun have been well steeped, and three gills of good white wine or red (according to the colour of the wine you wish to improve,) let them boil over a slow fire, till a third part is wasted, taking off the scum as fast as it rises; then put it very hot into your vitiated wine, letting it stand with the bung, out. Afterwards put into a linen bag a little mace, nutmeg and cloves, and let it hang in the wine by a string for three or four days. By this method, either new or old wines will not only be fined, but much improved other ways; for by it they are recovered from their foulness and decay, and acquire an agreeable smell and flavour. They may be still further improved, if, after taking out the spice, you hang in its place a small bag of white mustard-seed, a little bruised. The work will then be complete.
A modern system of domestic cookery … by M. Radcliffe (Manchester, 1823)
And in case you have wine leftover from dinner, here is a dessert idea for the next occasion:
Make a Crust as for Vol au Vent (No. 25,) pare and core with a scoop eight or ten Golden Pippins, put them into a stewpan, with a gill of Sweet Wine, and four ounces of sifted Loaf sugar, a bit of Lemon Peel, a small stick of Cinnamon, and a blade of Mace, stew them over a slow fire till the Apples are tender; set them by; when cold, place them in the Paste, and pour round them some good Custard No. 53.
The Cook's Oracle: …. by William Kitchiner (Second American edition, 1823)