If you’re like many wine drinkers, you may have seen decanters at your local store but assumed that they are only meant for wine connoisseurs. The truth is decanters not only enhance the flavor of your wine but they also improve presentation. Check out the following description of the decanting process and the benefits of decanting for different types of wine.
To decant or not decant?
You might be wondering why anyone bothers to decant wine when many high-quality restaurants simply serve wine straight from the bottle. This is a valid question, and the debate of whether to decant wine is nuanced.
First, decanting isn’t relevant for all kinds of wine. It traditionally has been reserved for old red wines or vintage ports, as these tend to accumulate sediment over time. The decanting process separates this sediment from the wine and allows the wine to aerate. Other wines that can benefit from decanting include wines that have a strong odor, such as natural wines, which are growing in popularity and contain very little sulfur. Further, young full-bodied red wines may benefit from decantation to tone down their strong tannins.
How to decant wine
Place the bottle upright.
Before beginning the decanting process, place the bottle upright for at least a couple of hours. Some wine enthusiasts even leave the bottle upright for several days to allow the sediment to accumulate at the bottom of the bottle before decantation.
Choose a decanter.
When choosing a decanter, you don’t have to invest in an expensive top-of-the-line crystal product. A simple clear wine carafe or even a jug will suffice, as long as it’s clear and facilitates pouring the wine into the wine glasses. Make sure that the decanter is clean and has no dust that could ruin the flavor of your wine.
Prepare the wine bottle.
When deciding when to open the bottle before decantation, you should consider what the wine needs from the decantation process. If you simply want to aerate the wine, you can open the bottle and decant the wine immediately before serving it. After removing the cork from your bottle of wine, clean the bottle neck to ensure it’s free of debris or pieces of cork.
Decant the wine.
Slowly pour the wine into the decanter while holding the bottle at a 45-degree angle. As you pour the wine, aim to hit the opposite side of the decanter to prevent frothing of the wine at the surface. Also, hold a flashlight or candle beneath the bottle neck so that you can see the sediment. Stop pouring the wine when you see sediment rise to the bottle neck.
If there is enough wine left in the bottle, you might choose to place the bottle upright for a few hours and then decant again, but sometimes the sediment can’t be separated from the wine at this point. While some wine lovers choose to use a coffee filter to facilitate this process, others avoid doing so because it can ruin the balance of the wine’s flavors. When you finish decanting the wine, you will most likely have about a glass of wine with sediment left in the bottle. Don’t throw away the remaining wine, as it is still useful for cooking.
Aerate the wine.
Before serving your decanted wine, be sure to aerate it to bring out its aromas and flavors. Simply swirl the wine in the decanter and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Taste the wine periodically during this process to assess how the wine has evolved since you opened the bottle. However, be careful not to aerate the wine for too long, as it can lose flavors that you can’t bring back. The wine can also take on an unpleasant vinegar taste if aerated too long. Also, keep in mind that wine can evolve in the glass, so it’s best to be cautious when deciding when to stop the aeration process.
Serve the wine.
After aerating your wine, be sure to serve it in an appropriate glass. When serving a decanted red wine, opt for a glass that has a clear bowl so that you can see the color of the wine. Further, glasses with a large bowl fit in your palm so that you can gently warm the wine. Also, choose a wide glass that gives you room to swirl the wine and fully enjoy its aromas.
Although decanting wine may be intimidating at first, there’s no need to be self-conscious when doing so for your guests. With the above tips and a little practice, you can bring out the best aromas and flavors of your wines and impress your guests with exceptional service.