The practice of decanting wine reaches back to the days when wine was poured from barrels and would contain significant amounts of sediment, consisting of yeast, grape skins, or other organic materials, which would be unpleasing to the eye or even have a poor taste. Due to today's filtration systems, decanting wine is not needed to remove sediment in younger wines, but still is helpful in enhancing the wine's flavor.
In order to best identify how long the wine should be decanted, first evaluate how old the bottle of wine is. Bottles of wine that are more than 10 years old often have sediment, and therefore should be decanted slowly, then left to "breathe" for a longer period of time than new wines.
Newer wines (less than 10 years old) should be poured quickly and are typically left to decant for a shorter period of time.
Decanting Aged Wines
If the bottle of wine you will be opening has been previously stored horizontally in a wine cellar, first let the bottle stand up for at least two hours to help sediment settle to the bottom. Next, hold up the bottle to a lamp or candle in order to pinpoint the areas in which sediment has formed.
Uncork the wine, then slowly pour it into the decanter, taking care to avoid the sediment from escaping the bottle. If you see sediment in the bottle's neck, cease pouring. The last third of the bottle is more likely to contain sediment, so it is important to pay careful attention during this part of the pour. Avoid decanting the last portion of the wine, leaving about a half cup in the bottle.
For maximum results, you should decant the wine for at least an hour before drinking, but never more than eight. Because the wine had been bottled for an extended period of time, it will require more time to release flavors into the air. However, if the wine decants for too long, it will oxidize, and the flavor will more closely taste acidic or like vinegar.
Decanting Young Wines
Because young wines have not been bottled as long, and likely have gone through a filtration process that removes most sediment, the wine should be decanted for a shorter amount of time.
The wine should be poured into the decanter quickly, splashing the wines on the sides of the decanter in order to release the aromas. Then, the wine should be left to settle for at least 30 minutes (an hour at the most) in order to reach optimal taste levels.
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