The Successful Collector – By Julian Hitner ~ Wine education for us all – decanting wine ~ Saturday, September 1st, 2012
There are many thoughts on decanting—the act of pouring wine out of the bottle and into another glass vessel. While many traditionalists hold to the idea that all red wines and even certain whites should always be decanted, others believe decanting to be an unnecessary procedure, one that should only be carried out under the strictest of circumstances.
At any rate, there are really only three reasons to decant. The first is to rid the wine of sediment, the undesirable solid components that have built up over time (most apparent in older wines). The second is to raise the temperature of the wine—important when the bottle has been taken out of a cool damp cellar. The third reason is to aerate the wine in order to enhance its aromas. For the vast majority of wine lovers, this is the most common impetus for decanting, as most us do not regularly serve twenty-year-old bottles.
But what are the steps for undertaking a proper decanting, particularly for aeration? First and foremost, check to see of your decanter is clean, that you do not smell anything coming from the inside the bowl. Once this is established, make sure you have all your other tools at the ready, namely your corkscrew and a clean cloth. A few wine glasses are also advisable.
Using the miniature knife on your corkscrew, cut the foil on the top of the bottle. Once you have carefully uncorked the wine, pour half an ounce into one of your wine glasses to taste the wine for yourself; we do this to make sure the wine is clean and devoid of faults. If you are satisfied the wine is clean, you are almost ready to decant. But before you empty the entire contents of the bottle into the decanter, pour in only an ounce and then swish the decanter around in a circular motion. This will ‘season’ the decanter and make the introduction of the rest of the wine less of a shock. Once this step is completed, pour this ounce out into your wine glass, or drink it if you feel so inclined. While it will not taste as good as what is to follow, there is no sense in wasting it.
Finally, you are ready to decant your wine. Holding the bottle comfortably in your hand, gently pour the remaining contents into the decanter. Most sommeliers tend to hold the decanter in their hands while carrying this out, while others prefer keep the decanter on the table. Both ways are perfectly acceptable.
As you are pouring, decant the wine more vigorously if you believe it will benefit from a more aggressive aeration. Be sure to continually use your clean cloth to wipe off the lip of the bottle after every pour, otherwise small amounts of liquid will dribble to the bottom of the bottle and onto your hands, and eventually the table.
Lastly, distribute the contents of the decanter liberally into your glass and those of your companions. In the end, the fruits of one’s labours are most enjoyed when partaken by all.