Here is a short guide to wine decanting. Find out everything you should know about this ancient art!
Decanting wines is one of the sommelier techniques. Let’s discover together how to decant wine like a real pro, why decant wine and, last but not least, when to decant wine.
In Italy wine is not just a drink. It is history, it is an expression of the territory, it is heritage. This precious nectar is in fact surrounded by a series of rituals and mysticism that lead to the final act of wine tasting. Decanting is one of these rituals and involves transferring the wine from the bottle to another container, the decanter.
But why do we decant wines? This operation is necessary for two main reasons:
- Wines that are aged for long time may have wine sediments, caused by the presence of potassium and calcium tartrate salts. Sediment in red wine is caused by the polymerisation of tannins. Decanting a wine means separating the wine sediment from the liquid, an essential procedure at the time of serving because wine residue is considered a defect.
- The Decanting process is also functional to the oxygenation of wine, which in contact with the air “opens up” and rounds off its bouquet of aromas. It will thus be possible to appreciate the wine in all its integrity.
Decanting wines, but which one?
Let’s take a look at the different ways of decanting wines depending on the type.
The process of decanting is particularly recommended for wines that have been aged for long periods in oak barrels or bottles. If wine has been stored for several years in a closed environment, it will need a certain amount of time to get rid of heavy, unpleasant odours that have formed as a result of being in a reducing environment, i.e. in the absence of air.
In these situations, decanting wines becomes fundamental. This operation should therefore be carried out with a wine that has just been aged in a bottle for a long time and in all those cases where the presence of sediment in wine is presumed.
Decanting wines takes on different forms depending on whether the wine is red or white, mature or young.
- For mature red wines, decanting allows the wine sediment to be separated from the liquid; the product goes from the so-called “dirty wine” to a wine ready for wine tasting, releasing all its aromas.
- Young, tannic red wines which undergo this oxygenation process refine their aroma. In contact with the air, they undergo an evolution of taste: acids, esters and hydrocarbon molecules bind with oxygen and enrich the aromatic complex of the wine.
- White and rosé wines are generally free of wine sediment. If there are wine sediments, you should decant the wine, paying particular attention to the time of contact with the air and to the temperature. Prolonged aeration could compromise the wine tasting.
- In the case of sweet wines, such as botrytized wines, we can choose a light and brief decanting process to enhance their quality.
How to decant wine – the procedure
Let’s now discover in detail how to decant wine like a sommelier.
if the bottle is kept in a horizontal position, it should be verticalised at least twenty-four hours before decanting. This preliminary operation will allow the wine sediment to settle to the bottom, facilitating the subsequent phases of the decanting process.
At the moment of service, the bottle will be brought to the table in a special basket. As usual, the bottle will be uncorked. The wine will be checked for alterations and defects by checking the cork and making a first wine tasting.
Afterwards the wine is decanted.
- We will need a wine decanter and a light source. Usually a candle is used.
- How to use a wine decanter? We pour a small quantity of liquid into the wine decanter, turning it gently with wide movements.
- At this point, we should decant the wine by holding the shoulder of the bottle against the candle to check for wine sediments. During this central phase of the decanting process, the bottle should be kept in a horizontal position and no breaks should be made to prevent the sediment in wine from moving.
- When we begin to see the wine sediment reach the neck of the bottle, the decanting process ends.
Practical advice & wine decanter purpose
This operation is usually carried out fifteen to thirty minutes before serving the wine, but there is no formula for decanting times or, more generally, rules for decanting wines. It will depend on the type of wine we are going to taste.
It is therefore necessary to understand whether the product will be able to gain something more by decanting, whether it will benefit from contact with air or not.
For example, to enhance a wine aged over ten years, it will be necessary to decant the wine at least half an hour beforehand. This will allow it to dissolve and give us all the nuances of its aromatic framework. For other types of wine, we will decant the wine more gently and quickly.
What is a wine decanter? Regardless of how long it takes to decant the wine, the wine decanter is the key instrument in this operation. There are different shapes: small, swan, vase, duck and classic. The latter has got a wide belly at the base and then develops in height with a long, narrow neck of about ten centimetres. Its structure is designed to fulfil the main purpose of the decanting procedure: to oxygenate the wine.
Is it possible to decant wines without a wine decanter?
If we need to decant wines but do not have a wine decanter, we can take alternative routes.
To decant the wine, we can use a glass carafe. Although it has not the shape of a wine decanter, the carafe allows the separation of wine sediments and the oxygenation.
We can also uncork the wine shortly before tasting and let it take air directly from the bottle, paying particular attention to wine sediment when we pour it for our guests.
Another alternative and often unconscious tool used when to decant wine is the goblet. Its structure performs a similar function to that of the wine decanter: the wide body of a glass will allow adequate aeration and development of the wine aromas.
You can then amaze your guests by trying your hand at amateur decanting.
But you can also amaze and surprise your friends by taking part in a unique experience proposed by Italia Delight. You will be guided through the wine tasting process by Experts in the field.
You will be able to appreciate the results of a proper decanting of fine wines, paired with high-quality food in amazing locations. Here are some wine experiences not to be missed:
- Taste the famous vino nobile di Montepulciano
- Savour the legendary Sagrantino di Montefalco
- Discover Sicilian wines
- Let yourself be captivated by the power of Campania wines
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