To decant or not to decant? Unless you have a hella lot of experience with all the world’s wines, you probably aren’t really sure whether you should, or maybe even why you would in the first place.
There are two reasons for decanting: to remove sediment (that can taste bitter and isn’t much fun to get a mouthful of) and to ‘aerate’ the wine i.e give it some contact with oxygen so the flavours and aromas loosen up. It also looks nicer which can enhance the fun of drinking it.
Professors and wine scholars throughout history have argued about when and whether you should decant wine. Here are a couple of general pointers from our experience:
1. The older and more mature a wine gets, the more edgy we are about decanting. Even a few minutes in a decanter can give too much oxygen to these fragile wines and it can start to go a bit wrong. If in doubt, ASK. Most wine companies will be happy to give advice on wines you’ve bought from them.
2. Most wines won’t have a heavy sediment these days. If you’re worried, let the bottle stand upright a few hours before serving so any nasty stuff collects at the bottom. Shine a light through the wine to try and get a good view of the sediment, and then you can pour it steadily into a decanter. Keep the light shining, and you’ll see the sediment make its way into the shoulder of the bottle, and can stop before it reaches the neck.
3. We’ve also known people pour sedimenty wines through a pair of tights – just make sure they’re clean!
4. Everyday wines: Personally, we think all everyday wine can benefit from just a few minutes in a decanter. Don’t overdo it of course – but as well as looking pretty, that little bit of extra O2 can soften even the simplest of wines.
Some people think decanters are snooty and expensive, but there’s one for every budget:
5. If the sky’s the limit, we’ve found something a bit special. Macy’s have got us all excited by this Wine Enthusiast Globe decanter. It’s £39.22 and you have about the same amount in postage to the UK, so you’re looking at spending just shy of eighty quid, but you could argue it’s worth it.
Do you decant? We’d love to hear your decanting smarts…