Fact: Red, white, old, and young – most wines can be decanted.
There are two main reasons why we decant wines:
#1 – to aerate YOUNG wines – help them breathe and open up
#2 – to remove sediment in OLD wines
Achieving each outcome requires different approaches and techniques and they often get mixed up.
#1 – When aerating young wines, we want to get lots of air into the wine to help open up all the flavours and allow any pre-bottling sulphur or phenolics compounds to “blow-off” the wine.
To achieve this, we can pour the wine into a specific wine decanter at a fairly fast rate allowing it to swirl and splash around. The wine can then be drunk straight away or left in the decanter for a couple of hours before consuming. If you don’t have a decanter, you don’t need to purchase one to achieve the same result. Simply pour the wine into a clean jug and then pour it back into the same bottle.
There are a wide range of wine aerators on the market, some sit in the neck of the bottle and some are hand-held that you pour the wine through – all work well for this if you have one.
#2 – When decanting old wines to remove sediment, we must be careful to not over aerate the wine as we may lose all the delicate aromas still remaining in the wine.
If the wine has been lying down while maturing, stand it upright overnight or for a few hours at least (if you have the time) to allow the sediment to settle in the bottom of the bottle. If you don’t have time for this, then open the bottle as gently as possible to avoid mixing the sediment back into the wine.
The candle in the picture is not for looks, it is actually there to help us see where the sediment is as we pour the wine. Hold the bottle above the candle and position it so you can see the glow of the flame through the neck of the bottle. Pour the wine slowly and gently into a tilted decanter so the wine slips down the side of the glass. As we get towards the end of the bottle, pay close attention to the sediment, and stop pouring before it gets into the neck of the bottle. Serve the wine straight away.
As above, if you don’t have a decanter you can do the same process into a jug, then rinse out the sediment from the bottle and gently return the wine to the original bottle.
There are lots of fine wine sieves on the market, but these are not necessary if you follow the process above. Any tea strainer can be used if you need to remove titrate crystals or pieces of cork that may have fallen into the wine.
So, when it comes to decanting it doesn’t have to be a fancy process, but it is important to know why you’re doing it so you can achieve the best outcome for the wine.
If you have recently bought some of the Beaujolais-Villages, this is a great wine to prove the effectiveness of young wine decanting, and if you’re sceptical of the process, just decant a glass worth and compare it to one straight from the bottle. Let us know what you think.