You might think that it’s simply done for affect. Most of us, undoubtedly, open a bottle of wine, leave it to breathe for a bit and are content with that. But should you be decanting your wine? And, more importantly, does it make any difference to the taste?
If you’re serious about your wine and want to get the best out of it, learning a little more about decanting should be on your list of things to do. Most wine experts say that you should decant if possible. The good news is that it’s not a difficult to do.
What is decanting?
It basically means that you gently pour the wine into another vessel prior to being served and leave it to breathe. This is usually necessary when you have a wine that has a sediment – you essentially want to pour it out and have no ‘bits’ in the bottom. Decanting can also give ordinary wines the chance to breathe and will enhance the flavour.
Decanting and sediment
Sediment is something associated with older bottles of wine and is usually a mix of grape skins, yeast and a few other ingredients that collect at the bottom of the bottle. If you drink the wine with this sediment it not only ruins the texture it can also make the wine seem bitter. More modern wine making processes mean that bottles with sediment at the bottom are the exception rather than the rule.
If you’re decanting because the wine has a sediment, it’s important to let the bottle stand for as long as possible to let everything settle. Careful pouring is at the heart of this and you might like a good light behind the bottle to make sure you can see the sediment at the bottom.
Decanting and aeration
While you’re unlikely to come across too many bottles with a sediment at the bottom, the other reason for decanting is to improve the taste. This works particularly well with younger wines which can seem a little bitter or tart – you can take the edge off this by either swirling the wine around in your glass or decanting prior to drinking. The process gets air into the wine and helps bring out the aroma and separate the flavours.
Here, you simply have to transfer the wine into the decanter and leave it to stand for a little while rather than worry about any sediment. You do have to watch how long you leave the wine out in the decanter – if you’re not planning to drink straight away, periods of two hours or more can affect the quality of older wines in particular. Full bodied wines normally take a little longer to decant compared to light ones.
Which decanter should you choose
Whether you decant your wine or not will depend on your own personal preferences but it’s worth experimenting with it to see how it impacts on the taste. There are a wide variety of different decanters available and your choice will depend on the type of wine. One with a wide base that provides plenty of aeration is suitable for heavy bodied wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon. Lighter wines like Pinot Noir can be decanted into smaller vessels and can also be chilled.