Decanting red wine

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Have you ever wondered why or if you should decant red wine? Well, here are some answers to your questions thanks to blog/decanting-wine

The logic behind decanting wine is based on two main premises: (i) aerating the wine opens up aromas and flavours; and (ii) separates the wine from any sediment which may have settled in the bottle.

The blog details the process as follows:

Stand the bottle upright for at least 24 hours, to allow the sediment to settle at the bottom.Prepare your decanter – make sure it is washed and dried.Remove the cork from your bottle of wine and wipe the neck of the bottle. (This way you will be able to easily detect sediment reaching the neck).Hold either a flashlight or a candle under the neck of the bottle.Slowly and steadily pour the wine into the decanter.Stop pouring as soon as you notice a difference in the composition of the wine ie it may begin to look cloudy or have ‘specks of dirt’ – this is the sediment.Throw away the remaining sedimented wine.

No all wines need decanting, though it often enhances a dinner table if the wine has been decanted into a beautiful glass container. Charles Antin, Specialist Head of Sale and Associate Vice President of the Christie’s Wine Department, advises: “I often decant wines that are either a bit too young, or at peak maturity. That said, as with all things wine, there’s no right answer. My advice is, when in doubt, decant. It’s rarely bad for the wine.”

Decanting young wine

A ‘young’ wine often has not had years of exposure to oxygen, so the decanting process tends to soften the harsh tannins (ie the chemical compounds which result in ‘a mouth-puckering’ experience).

The exposure to oxygen enhances the wine’s aromatics, allowing the underlying flavours to come forward. This aeration process is often described as allowing the wine to breathe… and as a result, making it more enjoyable at an earlier stage in the aging process.

There is a simple test, according to the blog: If you aren’t sure as to whether the wine is ready for consumption (ie is not well into the maturation process, having spent several years in the bottle) – “Pour yourself a taste.  If the wine in your glass seems a bit too harsh or angular, obscured by the firm structure of its tannins, then try pouring it into a decanter. Not only are the results likely to surprise you, but it can be fascinating and fun to taste the wine at various stages as it opens up and develops over the course of several hours.”

Decanting mature wine

A ‘mature’ wine on the other hand may have reached its peak, having been in a bottle for over a decade. The reason for decanting the wine in this case is not for the purposes of oxygenation, but rather to eliminate the sediment that has settled in the bottle (as discussed above). Although the sediment is harmless, it can “impart a bitter, astringent taste”.

“The best thing to do is to let the bottle stand upright for a few hours for the particles to settle, and then decant it slowly so that the sediment is left in the bottle,” Antin says. “Traditionally, it was customary to decant an older wine with the neck of the bottle held above a candle (although a flashlight works perfectly well), to keep an eye out for the sediment as the wine transfers into the decanter. When the first wisps of sediment enter the neck of the bottle, immediately stop pouring. You’ll likely be left with a small amount of sediment-filled wine in the bottle, which should be discarded.

Generally, you don’t need to wait a long time for an older wine to breathe in the decanter, and since excess oxygen can spoil particularly delicate examples, it is best to serve mature bottles immediately after decanting them. However, mature wine can sometimes be a bit closed or musty right after the cork is popped. If you’ve ever spent a long time cramped up in a small space (an economy-class airplane seat, for instance), you can probably sympathize with the condition of a wine that has spent years, or even decades, in a bottle: They sometimes need little room to breathe and stretch their limbs. In this way, it isn’t at all uncommon for an older wine to benefit from a bit of time in the decanter. But if the wine tastes delicious right away, there’s no need to wait too long. Again, the taste-as-you-go approach works best.”

White wines

Although white wines aren’t usually decanted, the more aromatic, ‘fleshier’ varieties are enhanced with oxygenation.

According to the blog, Antin often decants white wines. “If you open a bottle and the aromatics are reticent, pouring the wine into a decanter can often help,” he says. “Some of my favorite white wines to decant are from the northern Rhone and the Loire Valley.”

Below is a clip featuring Master Sommelier David Glancy decanting mature red wine


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