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Wine experts love to debate about whether to decant or not to decant wine and for how long it should be held onto before drinking, but whatever the conclusion may be, it is always a good idea to let the wine breathe to enjoy its subtlety and complexity.
Decanting simply means, transferring the contents of a wine bottle into another vessel before serving. In case of an older wine, the process is all about separating the wine from its residual sediments and promoting aeration of wine. Young wines may be decanted for allowing it to interact with the air to bring out the complexity in a wine, and open up a bouquet of aromas and flavors in it. These wines need to smooth out and aerating the young wine makes it seem silkier, livelier and always more aromatic. Decanters not only help oxygenate wine, but also serve an aesthetic purpose. Decanters are very attractive and can quickly enhance the appearance of a table setting or side bar. They come in a variety of elegant styles, sizes and shapes, and in a wide range of prices.
Yet there are those simple methods that can also be used to decant that favourite bottle of wine stored in your cellar. A glass pan, for instance, may be used to expose as much of the surface of that wine to oxygen as possible for enhancing the flavour, or may be a glass pitcher at home are perfect alternatives for a decanter if you are not looking for something fancy and expensive. But if decanting is time consuming and cumbersome, wine aerators, of several sorts, are also an amazing option these days for instantly allowing the wine to breathe and giving it a smoother finish.
How to Decant?
Decanting a young wine with no sediment does not require much effort. Simply pour it into the decanter and let it sit for twenty minutes or so before it is ready to be served, and you will notice a dramatic increase in aroma intensity and complexity in the wine. If you have a lot of time on hand, consider tasting the wine over a span of many hours. It may keep changing and improving. And no decanting is not just limited to Bordeaux wines, but also others, such as Burgundy and even white wine.
According to Jancis Robinson, a well-known British wine critic and author of several award winning wine books, scientists say we should decant at the last possible moment so that no part of the wine's reaction with air be lost to us. “As a host, I confess, I am prepared to sacrifice completeness for convenience with all but the most fragile old wines, say those over 25 years old, depending on their body and the style of the vintage. In practice, therefore, I tend to decant most wines that need decanting just before guests arrive, saving only really old bottles to be decanted just before serving,” she says.
She informs, “There are strong practical reasons for separating a wine with sediment from that sediment, which can taste bitter and physically gets in the way of enjoyment. This traditionally involves standing the bottle upright for a day or two beforehand and pouring the wine into another clean glass container (glass is inert and if clear allows you to enjoy the colour of a wine, which can be a great pleasure) with a strong light source behind the bottleneck, so that you can tell when the sediment is about to slip into the neck and can stop pouring at that point. That light source could be a candle or any strong light such as a desk light, table lamp without the shade or strip lighting under a wall-mounted cupboard. Bear in mind that some wines coat the inside of the bottle with a deposit that will not fall to the bottom of the bottle however long you stand it upright – but nor will it make the wine cloudy.”
She adds, “Some young wines however are so tight and closed that, even though they are too young to have formed any sediment, they benefit from the aeration involved in pouring the wine from a closed bottle into another container. If I’m decanting for this reason, I’ll deliberately splash the wine as much as possible into a glass container with quite a wide neck.”
Picking a Decanter
The best type of decanter for serving wine is one that is typically with a long stem and broad belly, preferably with a stopper. It should always be made of crystal clear glass, which allows you to see the wine at its best. The material and shape of the decanter is of vital importance, as it ensures the best possible flavor and aroma brought out in the wine.
Just as with your stemware, it is also important that the decanter is spotless and free from any kind of odors. Rinsing it with warm mineral water to remove any residual chlorine odor certainly helps a lot. Avoid cleaning your decanter with detergent, because the shape of a decanter makes it extremely difficult to get the soapy residue out. Instead, a good option would be the use of a mixture of crushed ice and coarse salt to remove any residual wine without leaving behind any aroma of its own. Additionally, decanter washing balls, which agitate the residue left in the decanter without affecting the decanter and prevent the need for harsh chemicals could also be used.
So go ahead, choose the shape and size of a decanter that fits perfectly to your requirement and give it a swirl and notice your wine would have never tasted better.