to decant, or not to decant, that is the question

to decant, or not to decant, that is the question

As a Sommelier in a restaurant, I must admit that Decanter is such a useful instrument, getting wines ready to be enjoyed within minutes by our guests. As a Romantic wine lover though, I do not use it at home much and in this article I will tell you why.

When and how to use a Decanter?

Fundamentally, decanting serves two purposes: to separate a wine from any sediment that may have formed and to aerate a wine in the hope that its aromas and flavors will be more vibrant upon serving.

Older red wines and Vintage Ports naturally produce sediment as they age (white wines rarely do); the color pigments and tannins bond together and fall out of solution. Stirring up the sediment when pouring will cloud a wine’s appearance and can impart bitter flavors and a gritty texture. It’s not harmful, but definitely less enjoyable.

Decanting is simply the process of separating this sediment from the clear wine. It’s fairly safe to assume that a red will have accumulated sediment after five to 10 years in the bottle, even if this can’t be verified visually, and should be decanted.

Here’s how to do it well:

1. Set the bottle upright for 24 hours or more before drinking, so the sediment can slide to the bottom of the bottle, making it easier to separate.

2.Locate a decanter or other clean, clear vessel from which the wine can easily be poured into glasses.

3. Remove the capsule and cork; wipe the bottle neck clean.

4. Hold a light under the neck of the bottle; a candle or flashlight works well.

5. Pour the wine into the decanter slowly and steadily, without stopping; when you get to the bottom half of the bottle, pour even more slowly.

6. Stop as soon as you see the sediment reach the neck of the bottle. Sediment isn’t always chunky and obvious; stop if the wine’s color becomes cloudy or if you see what looks like specks of dust in the neck.

7. The wine is now ready to serve. Discard the remaining ounce or two of sediment-filled liquid in the bottle

Another purpose of the use of Decanter is to bring the wine to a correct temperature: when I was getting the wines ready for the wine tasting with the Obamas, I panicked for a minute as the wines were kept at high temperature(25°C/77°F) in the previous hours so I had to do something as the guests were coming in 20 minutes: my decision was to decant the wines and to put the decanter in a big bucket filled with ice in a desperate race against time. Luckily Mrs Michelle and Mr President were a few minutes late, the wines were served at the right temperature and the diplomatic relations between Italy and USA were saved, lol.

Also, if you need to please the eye, a nice crystal swan decanter is always an amazing sight!


Personally, Because I am an incurable Italian romantic, and I think that if a wine has been in the bottle for so many years then we can wait a few hours to get the best of it: in a few words, I believe in the evolution of the flavors of the wine there are 10 steps. The steps are the moments in which different aromas emerge from the glass, so the wine changes and evolves constantly: when we decant it, it goes from step 1 to step 10, loosing step 2 to 9. In our modern times, in which everything has to be ready to use because we do not have time to waste, I like to sit down and to contemplate the evolution of a wine: I do not consider this 'waste of time' just as a personal relax, but also as a form of ultimate respect for the wine maker and the efforts he/she has done to produce it.

To use one of my stupid quotes, I would compare decanting a wine to watching a movie instead of reading the book of the same novel: you get the idea and the whole story but you loose the nuances and the details.

Also, being wine a living matter, after many years spent in a vacuum environment, the exposure to a big amount of oxygen in such a short time can spoil it and can just annihilate some of the aromas that are subtle but extremely important, therefore I highly recommend to not use the decanter for older wines as you'd risk to KILL YOUR VINTAGE BAROLOS . I personally recommend to open the bottles a couple of hours before and the oxygenation will be more gentle for the wine.

Thanks for reading,

Francesco :)

#decanter #decantingwines #wine #italianwine #barolo #vintagewine

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