From aged reds to fine white wines and brilliant bubbles, decanting a wine always adds to the ceremony of an event. Aside from hiding a less than beautiful bottle however, what are the real benefits of decanting? How do you do it properly and is there ever a time where we shouldn’t be doing it at all? Here is your hosting guide to decadent decanting so you’ll always know how to show your wines at their very best.
The wine in a bottle is a bit like an opera singer: it needs a few deep breaths to reach the perfect note. Getting air into a wine unlocks its aroma and flavour and this is one key reason for decanting. The other is to remove any sediment. Most wines you’ll pull off the shelf won’t have sediment anyway, so a large glass, part-filled will usually do. Some young, bold reds respond well to decanting as the air will help soften astringent tannins and dissipate any sulphurous aromas that you often get when opening some young wines. Heavier whites such as serious chardonnays will benefit from a little extra air as will fine champagnes, though you’ll want to pour those pretty quickly to maintain the mousse. Other wines, such as aged reds and vintage ports, will throw down a gritty sediment that no host wants to serve their guests.
WHEN NOT TO DECANT?
Crisp, aromatic whites tend to taste out of balance when decanted, so avoid that. If you’re lucky enough to be serving a particularly old, fine red wine, then not decanting may also be the way to go. Like a delicate fresco that shines for a few minutes when freshly unearthed, a very old, fine wine may fade quickly when in contact with all that air and light. If you suspect that this might happen, follow the steps below but pour it straight into the wine glass rather than the decanter.
HOW TO DECANT
Advance thinking here will serve you well. An old port or red wine should be left upright and untouched for at least a day before opening to allow the sediment to sink to the bottom. Tip: leave it next to decanter. Next, gently remove the foil and cork, moving the bottle as little as possible. Find a light source to place under the bottle’s neck as you pour so you can see what’s going on inside. Then, in one, flowing movement, pour the entire bottle very slowly into the decanter, stopping as soon as the smallest bit of sediment is spotted in the neck. Sadly, you’ll have to ditch what’s left at the bottom of the bottle.