As you start to explore your passion for wine you will come across a whole range of accessories that can make the drinking experience much more enjoyable. Of course, everybody knows the basics. You don’t need to know about the benefits that a corkscrew has to offer after all. However, what about the accessories that are designed to ensure your wine maintains its quality and consistency for as long as possible.
That’s where decanters come in. This nifty little tools can go a long way to preserving a bottle of wine that would otherwise lose its potency in fairly short order. Even so, a lot of people don’t really know what they are used for or how to use them properly when they have them.
To remedy that situation, your friends at Xtrawine have come up with the definitive guide to decanting so you know exactly what situations yours was made for.
The Purpose of Decanting
Before we get into the how’s, let’s take a look at the why’s when it comes to decanting. After all, if you don’t know what you are aiming to achieve it’s likely that your decanting efforts will pretty much come to naught.
At its core, decanting serves a dual purpose. The first is to get rid of any of the sediment that is left over in the wine from the fermentation period and ageing. This is a particular problem in older red wines and ports, each of which will produce sediment over time that not only gets into the drink, but can also cause any win enthusiasts a bit of a nasty shock when it finds its way into their mouth.
Worse yet, stirring up a wine, which often occurs during the pouring of the drink, can cause the sediment to rise from the bottle of the bottle and cloud the drink. This makes it more difficult to identify the various hues that indicate how well the wine is aged, plus sediment often lends wines a grittier, more bitter taste that prevents drinkers from enjoying the full experience. Happily, this is less of a problem in white wines, which generally don’t need to age. Sediment will still occasionally be a problem in a white wine, but it is much rarer.
As a general guide, your wine should be decanted if it has been left to age for at least five years. Even when you can’t tell by looking at it, the sediment at the bottom will cause you problems when you finally get around to drinking the wine.
So what about the second purpose of decanting. Well, much like the first, it is all about quality, only this time decanting serves to bring the best out of the wine, rather than extract the gunk that can end up giving the wine a bad flavour.
Effective decanting will aerate a wine, which means exposing it properly to oxygen in the air, thus releasing the various flavours and aromas that often take a little while to unlock when drinking a bottle of wine. As such, decanting proves itself useful even in instances where the wine hasn’t been aged and there isn’t a bunch of sediment at the bottom of the bottle that has the potential to ruin the taste.
So How Do I Decant?
So we think they why’s of decanting have been pretty well covered there, so how about we take a look at the method you should use to ensure your wine is decanted properly. Failure to follow these steps doesn’t necessarily mean that your wine won’t be decanted effectively, but it may result in you not getting the absolutely most out of the bottle.
Step 1. Before you even think about drinking the wine, set it upright for a minimum of 24 hours. This is especially important for aged vintages that have spent their entire lifetimes in the cellar. Any sediment that has gathered inside the bottle will slowly start making its way to the bottom, thus making it easier to separate from wine.
Step 2. Locate your decanter. Now, many wine retailers, including Xtrawine, retail special decanters that are fit specifically for this purpose. However, if you don’t have one to hand, a clear and clean vessel of some description should do the job.
Step 3. Remove the cork from the bottle and take the moment to wipe the bottle’s neck completely clean with a cloth. You don’t want any excess bits of cork dropping into the bottle once it’s been opened.
Step 4. Begin pouring your wine into the decanter while holding a light source, such as a candle or torch, underneath the bottle’s neck. Pour slowly until you reach the half way point, after which you should really slowly things down to a crawl.
Step 5. Pay special attention to the bottle’s neck once you start going past the halfway point. You’re looking for any chunks, cloudiness, speck of dust, or discolorations in the wine. As soon as you see anything that isn’t quite right, stop your pouring. If you don’t, you’ll just end up dropping the sediment into the decanter, eliminating the whole purpose of the exercise in the process.
Step 6. The wine in your decanter is now ready to serve, though you may want to wait a moment or two to allow the wine to really open up and aerate. As for whatever is left over in the bottle, you will unfortunately be unable to separate that from the sediment so it needs to be discarded. This may seem like a waste at first, but remember that this part of the wine has been compromised by the sediment in the bottle and would have ruined the drinking experience.
The Final Word
So now you know everything you need to know about decanting. Admittedly, it can sometimes take a fair amount of practice to get yourself to a point where you are able to decant effectively without accidentally allowing sediment to spill over. Start out by testing your skills with cost-effective bottles of wine before moving onto anything with real value.