Decanting wines is primarily done for two purposes. Firstly to pour off the sediment of wine that may have formed at the bottom of a well cellar stored bottle and secondly to aerate (breathe) younger wines by adding oxygen to the wine. This will help the wine to develop its full flavor potential. Serving wine in a nice crystal (or glass) carafe is also an upgraded presentation on your dinner table. It is important however that the bottle of wine is presented next to the carafe as the label of the bottle host’s information to the grape variety, age and origin of the wine.
Timing of the decanting of a wine is important. In general younger wines and robust wines can be decanted and allowed to breath up to 6 hours ahead serving, while old and vintage wines are decanted only a short time before actually serving the wine.Older, aged wines and vintage portsOld wines that have been stored and aged in a cellar properly often contain sediments due to the aging process. By decanting the wine, the wine is poured into a decanter (carafe) and the sediments will remain in the bottle. Method:
- The bottle should be taken out of the familiar horizontal position (cellar position) and stood up for an hour. The sediments will then settle at the bottom of the bottle.
- Very carefully open the wine as one does not want to shake the settled substances at the bottom of the bottle.
- Due to the color of the bottle (mostly green glass), it is advisable to work in front of a small light or a candle. This will help in seeing the sediments before they are being poured through the neck of the bottle, while ensuring that all of the wine is being decanted.
- Hold the bottle below the neck with the neck in front of the light/candle. Bring the bottle into 140-degree angle to the carafe, you may start at approximately 120 degree and while the bottle empties increase the angle, and ever so gently let the wine flow into the carafe.
- This process might take several minutes and should not be rushed. Towards the last part of the bottle, watch carefully for the sediment and stop the process, when the sediment appears in the neck of the bottle
- Let the wine rest for a while before serving as the motion of decanting may have “unsettled” the wine.
- There are brass and silver decanting cradles available, which certainly make sense for the serious wine lover. The bottle is horizontally suspended in a cradle with a cranking system ensuring a perfectly smooth tilting action and as little disturbance to the wine as possible.
Younger wines to be aeratedYoung, but full-bodied, robust wines often benefit from being aerated or decanted. The aim here is that the wine comes into contact with as much oxygen as possible, and this in turn will help to develop the aroma and “bouquet” of the wine. Method:
- Contrary to older wines, it is quite alright if the wine “splashes” and twirls when being poured into the decanter or carafe. In general a wide bodied decanter is better suited for aerating wines, as the wine inside the carafe is provided with a bigger surface which is exposed to the air and therefore the wine can better develop its flavor and aromas.
- During the time the wine “breathes” and is exposed to air, it will also settle and calm again after being twirled and “awakened”.