By Robert Paul –
Over years my wife and I have amassed a nice collection of wine decanters. They sit on the sideboard and sometimes in the china cabinet and a few I haven’t seen in years, which means they probably ended up in a neighborhood tag sale. Sometimes our decanters emerge without their crystal stoppers to be flower vases. But a few years ago, as our appreciation of wine grew and our collection of bottles expanded, it occurred to me to actually use those handsome decanters to decant wine and put the decanters on the table when we have dinner parties or when we want to have a special dinner just for the two of us. Since then our table decor has improved and so has the taste of some of our wines.
Here’s why: You decant wine – mostly reds – to let the wine breathe and many wines benefit greatly from the process of slowly pouring wine from its home bottle into another vessel with more volume. Do this about 30 minutes before you intend to serve the wine. Wine manufacturers make a handy little funnels to facilitate the process. Some of the funnels are glass and sculptural and quite classy. My sister-in-law gave me one as a gift and I like it quite a bit. Red tannic wines (especially young or old Bordeaux, cabs, Rhones, Barolos and Ports) like to be decanted. Decanting releases the bouquet and renders the flavors in the wine more robust and rounded. Also, an older red has sediment and when you decant, you strain the sediment out of the wine.
If you intend to decant a wine, leave the bottle upright for a day or two. That way, with a light behind you, you can see the sediment in the wine. Then you can pour the wine into the decanter down to the bottom inch or two, i.e. until the sediment reaches the neck of the bottle.
In general, neither white wines nor delicate reds, e.g. pinot noirs, need to breath and, generally, don’t benefit from decanting, but hey, if you want to use a pretty decanter, go ahead and pour that white or red wine into the decanter. You should, however, serve them within the hour.
Obviously, wines that never benefits from decanting are sparkling wines. Why? Decanting dissipates the tiny bubbles and the fizz is what you want to hold onto in any sparkling wine. Keep those glamorous sparkling whites in their home bottles and drink them at one sitting. That usually doesn’t present a problem.
Decanting is a simple wine ritual and an easy skill to master. If you enjoy wine, you should definitely decant. Then you can learn an accompanying skill – haunting tag sales and flea markets for beautiful decanters at a bargain.