Do you have an elegant decanter that you received as a gift or purchased on a whim? Maybe it’s collecting dust on your shelf, waiting to be adored at a tasting with friends. If you haven’t found a way – or a reason, for that matter – to use it, come closer. Let’s talk decanting.
In its simplest definition, decanting is the act of pouring wine from its own vessel, the bottle, into another vessel, a decanter, before serving.
Why try it? Will it make any sort of difference? Decanting is meant for separating wine from their natural deposits of sediment in the bottle. Sediment stays in the bottle and a nice, clean wine charms the glass, ready to please you and your guests.
The process can also open up the wine. It breathes and makes contact with oxygen. Depending on style, this aeration can embellish, soften or highlight the wine’s flavors, giving it an extra boost of life.
First, let’s point out that not every style of wine demands decanting. The everyday white and rosé might not deem it necessary and you should keep your bubbles safe within the confines of their bottle, but some varietals can reap the benefits of a quick decant before serving. For example, Pinot Noir is lighter and can be more sensitive to light and oxygen. However, decanting can ease the tartness of a highly acidic Pinot.
Decanting works well with bold, full-bodied and high-tannin wines – think Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon. Reds naturally carry larger deposits of pigment, tannin and sediment. These fall out of solution as they age and collect at the resting point of the bottle, depending on how it’s stored.
Before decanting, make sure your bottle is upright so the deposit rests at the bottom. To decant, slowly pour into the container as to not disrupt the sediment. Stop as soon as sediment flow toward the neck of the bottle. Let it sit, then serve.
Older, fragile wines require less time and oxygen exposure, so pour slowly along the neck of the decanter as to not to oxidize easily and prevent flavor dissipation. Let it sit for no more than 30 minutes. You won’t need to be as tender to the younger, more vigorous wines as they can benefit from more aeration. Feel free to let these fresher bottlings take a little extra time – they can be decanted up to an hour or more prior to serving.
It is debated on whether decanting is even necessary to begin with. Though there is something sentimental about serving your guests with an eye-catching crystal vase, decanting your wine is all based on your own style and personal preference. There are no set rules to enjoy an authentic, Northwest bottle. How will you enjoy your wine best?