How to Decant Wine
Let’s start with the why first: why decant wine to begin with?
Decanting wines is primarily done for two purposes. Firstly, to pour off any sediment that may have formed at the bottom of a cellar-stored bottle. Secondly, to aerate (breathe) younger wines by allowing it to take in oxygen. 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. However, it is important that the bottle of the wine is presented next to the carafe so that your guests can find out about the wine’s grape variety, age and origin.
Timing the decanting is important. In general, younger wines and robust wines can be decanted and allowed to breath up to 6 hours ahead of serving, while older and vintage wines are decanted only a short time before serving.
How to decant old wine
Old wines that have been stored and aged in a cellar properly often contain sediment due to the aging process. Decanting means pouring the wine into a decanter (carafe) and leaving the sediment in the bottle.
- The bottle should be taken out of the familiar horizontal position (cellar position) and stood up for an hour. The sediment will then settle at the bottom of the bottle.
- Very carefully open the wine, as shaking the bottle will disturb the sediment that has settled at the bottom.
- Due to the color of the bottle (mostly green glass), it is advisable to work with the neck of the bottle in front of a small light or a candle. This will help you to see the sediment as it reaches the neck.
- Hold the bottle below the neck and bring it to a 140-degree angle to the carafe. Start at approximately 120 degrees and while the bottle empties, increase the angle, letting the wine flow ever so gently 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 pouring when any 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.
- Brass and silver decanting cradles are 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.
How to decant (aerate) younger wines
Young, 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 wine’s aroma and bouquet.
Contrary to older wines, it is quite alright if the wine splashes around as it is being poured into the decanter or carafe. In general, a wide bodied decanter is better suited for aerating wines, as once inside the decanter, the wine has a bigger surface exposed to the air and can therefore better develop its flavor and aromas.
While the wine breathes, it will settle and calm after being awakened as it was poured from the bottle.