Wine Decanting

Wine is decanted in order to separate the wine from the sediment that can accumulate at the bottom of a wine bottle and to aerate the wine

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Wine Decanting - To separate wine from sediment that accumulates at the bottom of the bottle and to aerate the wine

Wine Decanting - To separate wine from sediment at the bottom of the bottle and to aerate the wine


Why Decant?

Wine is decanted in order to separate the wine from the sediment that can accumulate at the bottom of a wine bottle and to aerate the wine (allow the wine to breath), which increases the wine's contact to the surrounding air. By increasing this contact, the wine will warm up and the wine's aromas will open up, and flavor characteristics should improve. But isn't wine and air a bad combination? Yes, during aging. However, just prior to drinking wine, air flowing across a good surface area of a wine will bring out its aromas.

Tools Needed:

A wide-mouthed decanter, a candle, and a corkscrew.

What Wines Should or Should Not Be decanted?

Interestingly enough, wines that most require decanting are very young and/or inexpensive red wines, and very old red wines. If the wine is young with high tannin levels, it should be decanted, not so much to remove sediment, but it will need time to aerate and enhance the flavor. Generally, the more tannins a wine has the longer it will need to aerate. Lighter-bodied red wines that have lower tannin levels, will need little if any breathing time. Mature wines, usually eight years and older, benefit the most from decanting.

White wines are never decanted, though they do benefit from some amount of air exposure. Open the bottle, pour, and let white wine breath for 20 minutes before drinking. Merely uncorking a bottle of wine and allowing it to sit for a period of time is only a waste of time, as there is not enough surface area at the top of the bottle to permit adequate amounts of air to make contact with the wine.

Vintage ports always require decanting.

The Decanter:

The decanter must have a wide-mouth and should be large enough to hold about twice the amount of wine that you plan to put in it. As decanting is done is to allow the wine to come in contact with as much air as possible, choose a decanter that holds at least two bottles of wine, so when one bottle is decanted, the empty half of the container allows for the maximum amount of contact with air.

How to Decant:

24-72 hours beforehand, stand the wine bottle upright. If the wine has been on a rack, sediment will have formed along the side of the bottle, so you may gently shake the bottle first, but only 24-72 hours before decanting. Begin the decanting process by removing the foil capsule and uncork the bottle, taking extreme care not to shake the bottle. After removing the cork, wipe around the top of the bottle, to remove any dirt or mold that may have accumulated, especially for older wines. Light the candle, and hold the bottle so you can see the candle flame through the bottle's shoulder (where it flares out under the neck of the bottle). Gently tilting the bottle, pour the wine into the decanter, in a steady, thin stream, while watching the flame through the bottle as you pour. You will eventually start to see a thin, dark stream of sediment headed towards the neck of the bottle. When you see this, STOP. At that point, there should be no more than one to two inches of wine left at the bottom of the bottle. After several decants, you should eventually be leaving less than one inch in the bottle. You should then leave the wine in the decanter for 1one-half to one hour before drinking.

Additional tips for decanting port: Vintage ports are aged fully in the bottle and they throw off a great amount of sediment in the process, and their bottles are generally very dark, so the task of decanting them is more difficult. It is thus necessary to give the bottle a good shake and then let is sit for at
least 72 hours before decanting. Use cheesecloth or an unbleached coffee filter over the top of the decanter to help filter out the sediment.


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