Decanting - how & why

There are two main reasons why one would decant a wine. The first reason is to separate the wine from any solid matter- sediment. Especially for aged wines which will have more sediment due to certain chemical process during the time in bottle.

When you pour the wine into the decanter the solid matter or sediment is left in the bottle. The second reason is to allow the wine to come in contact with the oxygen in the air. This process of aeration allows the wine to “open up” and release its hidden aromas. Although it is almost exclusively red wines that are decanted also white wines can benefit from aeration, A third reason is perhaps the estetic aspect of the whole thing and the ceremony at the table.

In past times wine making was not as refined as today and wines had a greater need for decanting even when young. Today the vast majority of wines are fined and filtered (despite a possible loss of flavour) resulting in much less need for decanting to get rid of sediment. For mature wines however (from 10 years to give a general number) there is still a need for decanting to assure a clear wine without lumps. However, care should be taken, if the wine is very mature and old, decanting a wine can destroy it too. The reason for this is that an old very mature wine is so fragile and that large amounts of oxygen will ruin it and it can become flat and dull in just a few moments. If in doubt the best thing is to ask the owner or charter guest what he or she prefers.

Young wines also benefit from decanting, although the aim is not the same. Here the goal is to aerate the wine and not take it off any sediment, youthful wines rarely have any sediment. to take the wine off its sediment. The action of decanting itself will bring the wine in contact with air and this process will soften the swine and make tannins a bit less grippy and will allow for a greater harmony. For this reason even inexpensive wines can benefit from decanting, if a first taste reveals a tannic, grippy, youthful structure. It is even a good idea to aerate them several hours before drinking if the wine is very youthful.

First, take the wine carefully from where it has been stored, hopefully lying on its side in a suitably cool, dark environment. Avoid all rapid movements of the bottle to make sure the sediment does not go everywhere. If the bottle is old and you suspect a lot of sediment it is good to let it stand upright for a couple of hours when possible. When the time comes to decant the wine make sure you have everything you need.
This includes a good cork screw (Teflon screws makes it easier), white linen napkin, decanter, a candle and the wine. Then pour slowly the wine into the decanter with the candle just below the bottle neck so you can see when the sediment starts to come. Then stop pouring and put down the bottle.The wine in the decanter will now be clear and without lumps of sediment. It is perfectly ok to have a very light sediment in the wine and this is almost impossible to get rid off unless using a coffee filter, which is totally banned in the fine wine area!