Have you ever noticed when you open a bottle of red wine the taste gets better over time?
The second glass is even smoother! The wine should start to smell better, the flavours should become more pronounced and the tannins become softer.
This is because the wine has ‘opened up’ due to the increased contact with the air. Decanting introduces oxygen, which releases aromas and flavors in all red wines.
So, decanting serves two purposes:
1) To separate the wine from any sediment that may have formed.
2) To aerate a wine to enhance its aromas and flavors before serving.
If you are going to decant, firstly, set the bottle of wine to be decanted upright for 24 hours or more before decanting.
Secondly, You only decant wines that will have or are likely to have a sediment. So for most young reds, whites, champagnes, rose`s, commercial sherry’s, less expensive Madeira’s and tawny ports, decantation is not required – unless you want it to look nice on the table, and you’re going to drink it pretty quick!
That leaves old whites and mature reds such as a claret, really old ports and sherries which will require it.
The simplest way is to decant into a clean glass decanter taking care not to disturb the
sediment which has settled in the bottom of the bottle prior to starting the decanting process.
Take your time
Take your time when decanting. Don’t rush it and keep a steady hand and as you get near the end of the process keep an eye out for any sediment stirring in the bottom of the bottle stopping before any of it gets in to the decanter.
Set the decanter aside on your dining table to rest. Lastly, if you use a funnel to get the
wine into the decanter, make sure it is clean and preferably glass.
How long should you decant a wine?
Decanting introduces oxygen which releases aromas and flavors in all red wines. Most tannic red wines will take between 30 minutes to 3 hours or more to develop and typically last for about 12 to 18 hours after being decanted.
Heres a rough decanting period guide for some wine choices:
Merlot: 2 hours
Pinot Noir: 30 minutes
Grenache blends: 1 hour
Cabernet Sauvignon: 2 hours
Sangiovese: 2 hours
Shiraz: 2 to 3 hours
Zinfandel: 30 minutes
Tempranillo: 1 to 2 hours
Nebbiolo: 3 hours plus
One last thing about vintage wines… Never decant wines over twenty years old!
If you are lucky enough to have any of these wines and you want to decant, it’s best to decant immediately before serving. If you decant and then wait too long all the fantastic aromas and flavours built up over the years will quickly fade.
What happens if you decant for too long?
If you leave a wine in the decanter for too long, high levels of acetic acids (the same acids
found in vinegar) will build up. These will create a harsh, vinegar-like smell which is not
good! In fact, it is a good indicator that the wines has turned and is finished!
PeterWhieldon tip: You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on party wines. Simply decant cheaper bottles of red the day before your guests come over. I promise they will taste double the price you paid!