Why Decant Wine
There are essentially two reasons why you might want to decant wine and these relate to separating sediment from the body of the wine and aerating the wine. With modern winemaking there is typically less sediment that forms as wines age however there is still some sediment and therefore a need to decant wine. The other reason is to aerate the wine, or to let it breathe.
To really enjoy a fine wine, you will not want it to take on an astringent taste or spoil the look of the wine, so decanting is an effective way of ensuring that sediment is separated from the wine. The idea is to transfer the clear, sediment free wine into a decanter, leaving the sediment behind in the bottle. Old wines typically have a lot of sediment or the sediment may have formed due to poor filtering or clarification when the wine was being made.
To aerate wine, decanting is used as a means of allowing a wine to breathe, which simply means that air is brought into contact with the wine as a means of releasing its unique aromas. Aerating a wine is also undertaken in the hope that contact with the air will assist to smooth out the taste of tannins. Some wine experts advocate that swirling the wine in your glass will have the same effect, while others believe that the act of decanting the wine into an appropriately shaped decanter is the best way to aerate wine.
How to Decant Wine
The first step is to ensure that you have a decanter which has a wide bottom and narrow neck which is made of undecorated glass or crystal. This is the receptacle which will hold your decanted wine and from which it will be served. If you are decanting to remove sediment it’s a good idea to stand the bottle in an upright position for a couple of days because it will allow the sediment to settle to the bottom of the bottle. This is an important step as to when to decant wine so you can plan the decanting around the time you would like to drink the wine.
After the bottle has rested in an upright position for a couple of days, you can remove the cork and carefully wipe away any sediment which may have collected in the neck of the bottle. You then carefully and slowly pour the wine from the bottle into the decanter and ensure you stop pouring once you see sediment in the neck of the bottle. You can decant over a lighted candle which will help you to see when the sediment has reached the neck or the bottle.
While wine is aging it needs to be protected from air however when it is time to drink it, contact with air is a good thing because it can assist with bringing out the full range of aromas of the wine. The base of your decanter should be broad because this is the shape which will allow air to come into contact with the most amount of wine. Again, the idea is to transfer the contents of the wine bottle carefully into the decanter.
When to decant wine is also something which needs to be planned carefully if you are decanting for aeration, because it will need to sit for ½ hour to two hours, depending on the age of the wine. If your wine is an old wine, it should not be decanted for longer than 2 hours maximum prior to drinking so that the maximum amount of flavor is released for you to enjoy.