Thursday, July 9, 2009

Decanting Demystified

Well here goes my first educational post, and its on a subject that I am quite passionate about, which is decanting. When it comes to decanting, there is a lot of misinformation out there. Some people feel that decanters are only for display on the table, many believe that only older wines need to be decanted, and some even think that only expensive wines need decanting. In short, they are all wrong.

So what does need decanting you ask? Lets make it simple. Just about all red wines should be decanted. Decanting with the proper equipment can accomplish two very important things for you - filtration and aeration.

Lets start with the first. Many wines, including some of the best will have some sediment or solid particles in the bottle. Although these cause the wine no harm whatsoever, they really don't feel very good in your mouth. The first function that decanting will provide for you is to filter any sediment out of the wine. This can be done the old fashioned way, which is by pouring very slowly and carefully so that the wine comes out of the bottle but the sediment stays in. If you want even better results though, it is well worth investing in a wine funnel with a screen or filter. These can be found in many stores or at one of my favorite websites - Wine Enthusiast. Here's a link to see some wine funnels and decanters

The second function of decanting is to aerate the wine or as some say "let it breathe." This is very important for red wine. Decanting the wine in a large decanter will expose it to air and allow the aromas of the wine to open up inside your glass so that you may better appreciate them. It also can soften the bite of wines with heavy tannins. There is some argument about this from certain experts, but to me the best way to settle the argument is through a taste test. Take your favorite everyday red and compare two bottles. Take the first and decant it for an hour prior to opening the second bottle. Then open the second bottle and immediately pour a taste of the decanted wine and the non-decanted wine into separate glasses and then try them both. I have tried this with many decanting non-believers and it has never failed to make believers out of them. There is no doubt that decanting will improve your wine!

Now that we know why we decant, lets talk a little bit about how to do it effectively. Simply uncorking a bottle and letting it sit for a few minutes will not do much for you - you need to transfer the wine into a vessel that will get it into greater contact with air. A good decanter is one that will give wine the maximum exposure to air possible. This is why so many decanters have very wide bases - the wider the base, the more wine is exposed to air and the faster and more effectively your wine will breathe. Also, most wine funnels will also distribute the wine into the decanter in such a way that it will cascade down the sides of the decanter, which will give it additional air exposure as you pour it. Wine Enthusiast is also a great source for decanters. A nice selection can be found at this link

One last tip - if you don't own a decanter, there are some simple things you can do until you decide its time to buy one. The simplest decanter in the world is a wine glass! If you open your bottle 1 hour prior to drinking, simply pour the wine into a wine glass or glasses, and it will decant there much better than it would in the bottle. Another suggestion is to take a look at that collection of large, dusty vases that you probably hardly ever use. Clean one out and make it your temporary decanter!


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