Decanting | The Why and How

Decanting | The Why and How

Definition: To pour liquid from one vessel to another.

Originally it was customary to decant wine before service as it was stored in large amphoraes rather than small bottles, making it difficult to serve wine at a table. Therefore with decanting, the wine could be transferred to a smaller jug or pouring vessel to be carried around by the wait staff. Many years have passed since the 17th century yet it is still common practice to decant certain bottles of wine before drinking. No longer due to ease of pouring (as a bottle of wine is quite easily held in hand) but to ensure the wine is at its peak tasting potential for the drinker.

If looking to have a wine served at its peak then there are two reasons one should decant a wine, to allow it to breath and bring out the full potential of the wine, and to separate out the sediment of wines that has accumulated with age. If you are a red wine drinker then a decanter is a must, for most whites you can get away with no decanting, but anything that is full-bodied can be improved with time in a decanter. As a side benefit, if presenting a beautiful table setting, a stunning decanter filled with fine wine is the perfect centrepiece and creates the best aesthetic for the banquet.

Aerating your wine

For young, bold wines

Typically speaking, the younger the wine the longer it should be decanted. The process of decanting helps to soften tannins that are quite sharp among younger wines. Generally speaking it is the medium and full-bodied wines that have the sharpest tannins, with lighter wines already quite smooth to drink. Bringing forth the more subtle aromas and flavours is another benefit to allowing your wine to breathe, it ‘opens up’ the hidden elements that are behind the green tannins of youth. 

Furthermore, when first opening a bottle of wine there may be the odours of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide, two volatile compounds that can create a negative response to a wine. But within an hour of decanting those compounds would be oxidised and untraceable within the young wine.

Bottles older than 10 years need very minimal decanting, if any at all. Some may benefit from a half decant, with half the wine poured into a decanter and the rest left in the bottle. After a period of time you can return the decanted wine back to the bottle and enjoy the overall blend.

Style of decanter: Large based, to allow more surface area for the liquid to be in contact with oxygen

Separating Sediment

For aged red wines

As red wines age, they naturally produce sediment from the colour pigments and tannins bonding together. This forms small solid particles that fall to the base of a bottle. If handled carefully when pouring, the sediment can remain at the base of the bottle. Yet to ensure there is minimal poured into a glass it is best to decant into a thin necked decanter to then be poured into a glass.

Decanting Process:

  1. Remove your bottle from its place of storage and sit it upright the day before decanting.
  2. Clean out your decanter and ensure no residue from a previous bottle.
  3. Take the cork out of the bottle, ensure a clean pouring channel.
  4. While holding a light under the bottle to view the sediment, pour the wine into the decanter slowly and steadily.
  5. When reaching the end of the bottle pour even slower and stop as soon as the sediment reaches the bottle neck. If you can’t see the sediment but the wine is getting cloudy then that is where the sediment is.
  6. Wait a short period of time for any sediment in the decanter to fall to the bottom, then serve.

Style of decanter: fine, narrow necks, to trap and remove sediment when serving.

 

Double decanting

The practice of double decanting is preferable when trying to not confuse multiple wines. By first pouring your wine into a decanter, you will then rinse out the bottle to remove stray sediment, followed by returning the wine to the bottle once it is time.

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