Wine decanting is one of the oldest food techniques known to man (or should I say beverage). A common misconception is confusing “wine decantation/decanting” with the act of aerating the wine. In fact, it should be the opposite goal. Decanting is usually reserved for older wines to separate the body from its sediments, while transposing a younger one into a carafe will lead to aeration (bringing out the aromas).
Here is a simple guide for perfect wine decanting.
What is wine decantation?
The goal of decantation is to separate the wine from its sediments. Why? Well they would eventually corrupt the flavor. The concept is simple: delicately pour the wine to remove the sediments at the bottom. In practice, it’s a whole other game. Aeration is an inevitable side effect, but it is not the primary reason you should decant. Older wines may actually react badly.
Dexterity is required for perfect wine decantation. The difficulty comes from the sediments becoming suspended as soon as you make any abrupt movement. It will take extra hours for them to come back down to the bottom.
When to decant wine?
Older wines are usually the ones targeted. However, they need to be built for decantation. A strong wine is one fairly solid, with a powerful flavor. Tannins have to be present, and firm. Tannins are basically the components that allow wine to keep its texture and structure. Here’s an excellent article on them .
If you have a particularly prestigious wine, decanting must be performed with the utmost delicacy. Once again, you want to avoid simply pouring wine in an open carafe, therefore oxidizing it.
How to decant wine?
- Here are few important rules:
- Choosing the correct container is a key factor of wine decanting. Crystal is probably the best material.
- Prepare the wine in advance. At least a full day ahead, place the bottle at a slight angle. Completely remove the bottleneck label.
- Operate at the last second to avoid oxidation of the wine after the decanting.
- Try to minimize movements with the bottle. For example, do not move it around.
- Decant all at once.
- Look for the moment where the sediments start to come out. Don’t try to save whatever minimal amount of wine you can. It is difficult not to lose at least half a glass of wine. Shine a light on the bottle neck for a better view. Your best bet may be a candle.
- Large carafe are usually to be avoided. Oxidation of older wine may happen too quickly. A narrow and high carafe is best.
- Recent wines have a tendency to generate fewer sediments. Do not confuse the sediments that appear after ageing with those you may find at the bottom of unfiltered wines. These sediments are less problematic (although it is still better to leave them in the bottle).
Sediments in wine are a completely natural phenomenon. Some wines, even younger ones, may present thin particles suspended in the liquid without any impact on flavor.
The final container is a perfect one to show off your beautiful and flavorful wine.