A question we come across a lot is, "Should I decant this wine before serving?" And it is a question with some debate around it. But if you’re like us, and you’ve ever attended a tasting at which you sampled two glasses of wine from the same bottle – one decanted, one not – then no doubt you’re a convert!
Decanting increases the complexity and fullness of a wine's flavor. But what exactly does it do to the wine to accomplish this? Basically, when you pour wine into a decanter, which is generally larger than the original bottle and features a wide, rounded base, you are allowing the wine to "breathe" by exposing it to oxygen. The oxygen is what transforms the flavor of the wine.
Think of it this way, the elements of the wine have been trapped in a bottle after long process of fermentation and aging, which creates gases that cause the liquid to be under a certain amount of pressure. In a sense, this creates a very concentrated or "compressed" flavor, which most people would describe as bitter. By allowing the wine to aerate, you’re allowing the elements of the wine to "stretch their legs," as it were, thereby fully expressing their flavor.
You can decant almost any wine – even champagne – and just about any wine would benefit from it. The exception to this, however, is wine that has been stored for 15 years or more. Wines that old should not be decanted. Older wines are considered "fragile" because their flavor can be quickly affected – some would say damaged – by exposure to oxygen. Therefore, wines like these should be poured directly into the glass – slowly, watching for sediment – and enjoyed immediately after pouring.
Of those wines that can be decanted – nearly any wine under 15 years of age – be aware the process is different for younger wines as opposed to older ones.
Because younger wines are less complex, owing to having had less time to age, they need more time to breathe – 30 minutes to an hour at least. Some connoisseurs recommend turning the bottle upside down in your decanter, which is thought to aerate the wine faster.
Older wines, on the other hand, and particularly red wines, tend to have sediment. The sediment accumulates at the bottom of the bottle over the years and has the consequence of making the wine taste bitter. So before decanting a wine such as this, allow the bottle to sit upright for 24 to 36 hours before you open it. When finally ready to open, you will want to pour the wine into your decanter slowly, watching carefully for sediment to flow into the neck of the bottle. Stop pouring as soon as you see this occur, or when the wine becomes cloudy. As mentioned earlier, older wines will be more affected by exposure to oxygen so be sure not allow it to sit around too long before enjoying – 30 minutes at least but not too much longer than that.
Aerating the wine is a process subject to taste, so sample the wine at different intervals to find the length of time that makes the flavor of the wine most desirable to you. Also, chilling the wine to its optimal temperature increases it’s enjoyment. For white wines, chill to 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit; for red, 52 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (or slightly below room temperature). While decanting has been the preferred method for centuries, the Vinturi Wine Aerator lets you enjoy your wine immediately after opening by simply pouring your favorite wine through their device which auto magically aerates the wine.
Some wines can be stored in your decanter but for older wines, we recommend they be returned to the bottle. For wines returned to the bottle, removing the air with a wine bottle vacuum pump specially designed for this purpose is recommended. This will allow you to store your wine much longer than if simply stored in the decanter. If stored in the decanter, you’ll want to be sure to enjoy it within 2 to 3 days. Storing wine any longer than that once it has been opened is not recommended.
Following these simple guidelines will help you achieve maximum pleasure from your wine, in the fullest expression of its flavors and aromas. Enjoy!