Decanting can improve the taste of your wine, but if done improperly, can also ruin it. We’ll teach you what you need to know about choosing the proper decanting method for a specific wine.
Some experts say that every wine, regardless of vintage, grape variety, or age needs to be decanted for several hours. This is done to remove sediments from the wine, which affects the wine’s texture, and also to wake up or soften the wine. By decanting, oxygen is added to the wine, which reduces the intensity of the tannins in the wine.
Just removing the cork from a bottle produces very little effect, since the exposure of the wine’s surface to the air is minimal. The action of decanting, however, creates movement which allows air to mix with the wine, and begins a reactive chemical process which enhances the wine’s flavor. The extent of the changes that occur depends on several factors, such as the size of the decanter, the temperature of the wine, and the vintage’s variety, characteristics, and storage conditions. The effect of the decanting process is also determined by the volume of air that the wine is exposed to.
The reactive process begins when wine is first exposed to the air, and varies based on the chemical composition of the specific wine. The amount of movement and the amount of the wine’s surface which is exposed to air also determines the speed at which this process takes place. Additional factors are the wine’s temperature, age, grape varietal, and storage.
Which wines stand to gain the most from decanting? Exerts have varying opinions, (which isn’t too hard to believe). Some decant only older wines, while others feel that all wines need decanting. We recommend decanting any young, tannic wines which will soften when exposed to air. You can decant anywhere from 1-3 hours, and sample the wine along the way to determine when it reaches the taste that appeals to you. You can also just allow the wine to evolve, open up, and soften just by leaving it in your glass. Sip on occasion to help determine the right drinking window.
Some older wines can begin to ‘turn’ if decanted for too long. Extended exposure can oxidize the wine and spoil the aromas and flavors. (An exception to this is fortified wine such as Port, which may be decanted for 12 hours or more). But decanting older wines also serves another purpose – it allows the sediments to be separated from the wine. As a wine ages, sediments may collect in the bottle, and may leave a bitter taste. Decanting allows the wine to be poured off while the sediments remain in the bottle. We also recommend that if you have the time, leave the bottle standing upright for a few days before opening, to allow the sediments to settle at the bottom of the bottle. You should also take care to pour the wine slowly from the bottle so as not to stir the sediments back into the liquid.
The famous wine critic, Robert Parker, is a big fan of another method known as double decanting. In this method, the wine is first poured into a decanter. The original bottle is then washed with clean water to remove any traces of sediment. Then, the wine is poured back into the bottle and the cork is replaced. In theory, by oxygenating the wine twice, it opens up more and improves the flavor.
Another method, known as hyper-decanting, introduces air to the wine by using a blender. We believe it does more harm then good, by over-agitating the wine instead of pouring slowly which does not disturb the wine to this degree.
Finally – there are those who believe that wine should never be decanted. Like wine, this again is a matter of personal taste, so experiment and see which pleases you the most!