Thursday, 14 April 2016  • Wine,

Decanting is the process of transferring the wine from its bottle into another container ? the decanter ? before serving. The wine is usually then served from the decanter. You must be wondering how a seemingly simple act of moving liquid from one receptacle to another can affect the drinking experience. Well, there's more to decanting wine than meets the eye, and it's more to do with practicality than posturing.

Why decant?
In the early years of wine commercialization, it was common for wines poured from the bottle and barrel to contain quite a bit of solid matter. That was mostly due to a lack of filtering and refining the wine well enough. To prevent the drink from appearing cloudy, it was a common practice to decant it into an elegant receptacle. Not only has the decanting tradition continued on, but the norm has also inspired a range of fashionable clear and crystal decanters. So, the main reason to decant is to remove any sediment/deposit. The second is to get some air into a wine and release the wine?s natural odors. Many wines today don't need to be decanted. In the modern wine-making process, the liquid is thoroughly clarified prior to bottling through a process called fining. Having said that, older red wines can throw off sediment as they age, which typically collects on the side of the bottle and on the bottom when the bottle stands upright. The sediment can add a bitter flavor to the wine. Decanting separates the wine from the sediment. Another objective of decanting is to aerate the wine. Wines that have been aging for a while tend to deliver a musty feel that can be removed through aeration. Young red and white wines bottled with considerable levels of carbon dioxide or oxygen can have overly aggressive tannins. Transfer of wine from the bottle to a decanter blows off the gases and absorbs oxygen, which helps in mellowing the tannins and opening up the flavor and aroma. To summarize, decanting works well for aged wines as a sediment removal solution. And in young wines (which rarely contain any sediment), decanting aerates the wine for a more youthful character.

How much to decant?
This depends entirely on the wine. If you just want to get a bit of air into it, you can decant on-the-fly before serving it. It works better than pulling out the cork and resting the open bottle for one or two hours. Hold the decanting or don't do it at all for older fragile wines - ports and Fino Sherries in particular ? these must be served chilled directly from the fridge. A best practice to follow for fragile reds and any old wine with sediment is to decant just a little bit ahead of serving. How long ahead to decant depends on the type and blend. While some complicated varietals will benefit from up to 20 hours of decanting, most will show improvement with only one or two hours.

How to decant
If you're decanting the wine to remove its sediment, follow the steps outlined below:
  1. •Remove the wine bottle from its storage. If it is an older wine that you suspect has a considerable sediment build-up, rest the bottle upright for a day or so before decanting to allow the sediment to move to the bottom of the bottle.
  2. •To decant, you will need the following tools : corkscrew, a receptacle ( a simple carafe is enough), and any reliable source of light.
  3. •Remove the capsule entirely from the neck of the bottle to get a clear view of the neck when decanting and watching out for the sediment in the wine moving through the neck. For a good view, shine the light through the neck from behind.
  4. •With the bottle in one hand and the receptacle in the other, transfer the wine into the decanter in one steady and smooth movement. Be gentle to avoid disturbing the sediment in the wine. Make sure the light source is directly beneath the neck of the bottle so you can see a trail of sediment moving into the neck. Now you can stop pouring. At the end of the process, you should have a carafe full of clear wine and about half a glass or less of sediment-containing wine. You can use this to prepare roast chicken, poached fish or stew.
If and when shopping for a decanter, avoid colored and overly ornamented ones as they won't give you a clear picture of the wine.