What is Decanting?
Often debated, the topic of decanting wine has both proponents and opponents among serious wine enthusiasts around the globe. A simple definition is the transference of the wine from the original bottle into another container known as a decanter, prior to serving. Fans of this process are convinced that this simply makes any wine taste better, and professional wine tasters tend to agree.
Since the purpose of decanting is to separate the wine from sediment that may also be in the bottle, fine wine connoisseurs recommend choosing the wine you are serving several days in advance. This allows time for the bottle to stand upright so that all sediment settles into the very bottom of the bottle. A word of warning – this approach works very well if you have regularly scheduled wine deliveries from a great wine of the month club, but it does not work if you run to the corner quick shop fifteen minutes before your guests arrive because you might have drank the wine you were supposed to be serving! Please don’t ask me how I know this…
As previously mentioned, decanting wine is a way to remove sediment from the wine. When wine is not decanted, the sediment in it can give the wine a bitter, astringent taste that can completely mask the characteristics you love in a particular red or white wine.
There is also another huge benefit to decanting wine. While pouring the wine into a decanter, the wine is agitated and mixes with oxygen from exposure to the air. This oxygenation enables the wine to develop its full, intended flavor and bouquet. Older wines have already had time to develop, so this process is intended as a way to get the best flavor from the many younger wines available.
Decanting How To’s
Because young wines usually have no sediment, decanting them is very easy. Just pour into a spotlessly clean decanter and let it set for at least 20 minutes before serving. This technique helps both younger red wine and white wine exhibit subtle and complex flavors that would not be noticeable if the young wine served straight from the bottle.
Sediment is usually a sign that you have an older wine and so the technique requires just a little more work. Because older wine has aged and could be ruined by overexposure to oxygen, decanting should be done immediately before serving. If you remembered to store your wine of the month club delivery upright when you unpacked it, then you are ahead of the game. Very carefully pour the wine at an angle into the decanter, using care to leave the sediment in the bottle.
However, decanting wine that has not been stored upright is best done with the assistance of a wine cradle. This cradle gently holds the wine at about a twenty degree angle to allow the sediment to easily settle. You can gently open the wine while it is in the cradle, (yes, you can!) and then carefully decant it while still cradled. Using a candle or a flashlight to watch the neck of the wine bottle will show you when sediment is trying to creep out and that is the time to stop pouring.
Whether young or old, the wine that is left in the bottle is perfectly drinkable, although it will have a decidedly different flavor than the decanted wine. Tasting it is a great way to see the differences in decanted wine versus straight from the bottle wine.
If you have been drinking wine while you read this and find yourself confused about the process, there is no need to fear. Just wait for your next wine club delivery and the included information will help you with decanting questions as well as what food pairs best with what wine. Now for another glass of wine!