Do you have one? Do you have more than one? Do you wonder what that funny shaped vase was for? Did you think they were only for brandy or congnac? Does it even make a difference to your wine?
Some people may think that Decanting belongs firmly in the fancy pants wine world that we are trying to escape. However, it does serve a number of purposes that can help you get the most out of your wine.
LET IT BREATHE:
You might hear proclamations that the vintage Syrah you are drinking needs to open up…….. OPEN UP! what does this mean you cry internally? You thought the wine was perfectly drinkable! Perhaps you noticed that your wine was very acidic, maybe it had a tight mouth feel, or you can’t smell anything but alcohol. These are all signs that your wine needs to breathe. This can be achieved by pouring into your glass, and doing that swirly thing you always see people do and wonder why! If this doesn’t change the smell, texture and flavour of your wine. Time to bring out the decanter. Pour in your wine, do the swirly thing (depending on the shape of your decanter) and let it sit. This can be especially useful for older wines, say more the 15 years old, these should be decanted approx 30 mins and even up to 4 hours before serving. Younger wines can also benefit from this too, and even white wines. Decanting is not reserved just for red wines!
Two things happen when you decant, evaporation and oxidisation. Evaporation is what causes the volatile compounds to lessen, as they dissipate. As these tend to be the less desirable elements, we dont mind this part of our wine disappearing. Oxidisation occurs over a period of hours, and not seconds or minutes, and if you really want to see the effect this has on your wine, leave it decanted for a few hours (note: this could also ruin your wine, so be careful and test with a small amount of wine). These two processes do seem to smooth the rough edges of your wine, but after a prolonged period.
THE FILTRATION DEVICE:
Another reason to decant is to filter your wine, to separate it from any sediment that may have occurred. This is common in aged reds, vintage port and natural wines. This sediment causes a cloudy colour in your wine which when stirred up and can have a bitter taste and dodgy texture. Not very desirable. So, we reach for our trusty decanter.
There are several steps when using decanting for filtration:
1: You must decide to drink your wine one day before you actually want to drink it. This is because you need to let the sediment settle by standing the bottle upright for a good few hours, like marinading meat overnight is best. This will cause the sediment to settle at the bottom of the bottle. Right where we want it.
2: Time to find your decanter and give it a clean, if its anything like mine its an awkward shape and always full of dust!
3: Open up your wine! Yes, the moment you have been waiting for since you decided to drink it but had to wait for the pesky sediment to settle!
4: This step is not necessary (see step 6), and its really no wonder why people think decanting is for wine snobs. You should be somewhere light, or have a torch or candle so you can see the neck of the bottle. This is so you can see the sediment while you are pouring. But, not necessary.
5: Fire up the quattro….. sorry i got carried away! Pour your wine in to the filtration vessel, gently but you don’t need to be too delicate.
6: This is why step 4 is not necessary, you can stop pouring your wine when there are about 2 fingers left in the bottle. This will ensure that most of the sediment will not reach your filtration decanter. The reason you don’t need to faff around with a torch, or candles or a lighter is you need these lights to see the sediment as your pour. However, if you have done step 1 properly, you can see approx where the sediment comes up in the bottle, and you can judge therefore when to stop pouring.
So, Decanting, does it work?
Depends on the wine, and on your tastes, but its worth a try at least if only to stop your decanter collecting dust!