Choosing whether or not to decant a bottle of wine can be a tricky decision to make. In some instances, decanting a bottle can improve the taste of the wine greatly, however, if it is done incorrectly the wine can be ruined. We take a look at when wine should be decanted and how to do it properly.
When deciding whether to decant a bottle of wine or not, the type of wine and the method of decanting that will be used are crucial to determining if you should go ahead. Factors that need to be assessed include, the grape variety, age and producer of the wine, as well as the condition of the bottle in question.
Why is wine decanted?
There are two main reasons to decant wine. Firstly, slowly decanting a bottle of wine ensures that any sediment remaining in the wine is filtered out and left in the bottle. This will leave the drinker with a clearer and softer tasting wine. Sediment is naturally produced in red wines over the years as it ages if the colour pigment and tannins bond together. It isn’t harmful to drink, but it can slightly spoil a glass of wine, as it makes the wine look cloudy and can add unwanted bitter flavours.
Another reason is that when a bottle of wine is decanted, more oxygen is introduced to the wine, aerating it. This process reduces the prominence of any acids and polyphenols used to create tannins in the wine.
What wines are best decanted?
This is a very hotly debated topic in the world of wine, with many schools of thought on it. There are a small proportion of wine drinkers who will decant every bottle without fail, regardless of the wine type. Some wine lovers only decant older wines to remove any sediment built up over the years, whereas others will stick to decanting young wines, which are higher in tannins, with the air helping to soften them up.
Others will only decant the cheapest wines and the most expensive wines. Many cheaper wines may have too much sulphur dioxide, making them smell a little off, and ruining part of the wine tasting experience. Decanting a cheaper bottle of wine can help to rid the wine of this undesirable quality. More expensive or bolder wines, such as Syrah, Malbec or Barolo, often also present higher levels of tannins, so it can be equally beneficial to decant these too. For the most part, mid-range and light-medium-bodied wines, do not need decanting. However, if you find a wine, such as a pinot noir, too acidic for your liking, then decanting it can help to make the flavours taste smoother and more enjoyable to drink.
How to decant a bottle of wine
There are several ways in which wine can be decanted, with a variety of methods, depending on the type of wine.
Firstly, the bottle of wine you intend to decant should be kept upright, rather than on its side, for a minimum of 24 hours. This will ensure that all of the sediment is at the bottom of the bottle, making it far easier to separate. Remove the cork and give the neck of the bottle a quick wipe. Holding the decanter at a slight angle, and the bottle horizontally, slowly and steadily pour the wine in without stopping until you get to the bottom third of the wine, then begin to pour a little slower. Once you see the sediment reach the neck of the bottle, or the wine starts to look cloudy, stop pouring. Some people hold a candle or torch near to the neck as they pour so that they can see this more easily. Discard any sediment filled wine left in the bottom of the bottle. When the wine is in the decanter, a great way to further aerate it is to gently swirl the wine.
Double decanting is a process in which two decanters, or a decanter and the original bottle are used to speed up the decanting process. The wine is firstly poured into the decanter, the bottle is then rinsed out with water, and then the wine is poured back into the bottle using a funnel. This method is also a great choice if you are serving the wine to guests, and you would prefer for them to not know that it has been decanted.
Some wine fans who are in a real hurry take it to the extreme, popping their wine in a blender to quickly whip in some air. However, there is a general consensus amongst the true wine lovers in the world that, unsurprisingly, this will add in air too quickly, and ultimately do more harm than good!
How long before serving should wine be decanted?
Airing a wine for too long can cause wine to become oxidized, which is something all wine drinkers look to avoid. Older wines (over 10-15 years) or fragile wines should only be decanted for around half an hour before it is poured into the glass. Younger wines or fuller-bodied wines can handle being decanted for around an hour before serving.
If you are going to the effort to decant your wine, then make sure that you have quality glasses to serve it in, such as ones from the gorgeous mouth-blown Lehmann Glassware collection. Do you decant your wine? Let us know what technique you use in the comments below!
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