Serving bottles with the proper decanting etiquette, as well as at the appropriate temperature, is imperative to making sure that a wine shows its best; however, knowing which bottles, in what situation, and just exactly how to decant a specific wine can be somewhat tricky. No worries! We’ve got you covered. Check out our basic Decanting 101, here.
WHY DO WE DECANT WINE?
We decant wines for two main reasons: separating wine from sediment or aerating a wine to bring out its flavors and aromas.
Separating wine from sediment is usually done with older red wines, as well as young wines that are unfined/unfiltered. The reason that sediment develops in older red wines and not older white wines is because of phenolic compounds. Over time, red wine pigments and tannins chemically join together, forming a solid molecular compound (sediment), falling to the bottom of the bottle. For young wines with sediment, the explanation is simple; post fermentation, wines are naturally left with residual sediment. However, most wines are fined and filtered simply for aesthetic reasons, to make a wine look clearer and less-cloudy on the shelf. While ingesting sediment is totally OK and nothing to be afraid of, it can take away from the pleasure of a wine drinking experience. It’s important to note that filtering wine can strip it of its flavor, which is why we choose to work with many unfiltered wines at Verve.
Decanting helps prevent all that sediment from ending up in your glass
The latter reason, decanting wine to bring out flavors and aromas, is applicable and beneficial to nearly every wine, and something you'll frequently see done for bold, younger wines. Think of the way you swirl a wine before holding it to your nose and taking a big whiff. Decanting a wine is basically like doing this, just on a much larger scale.
HOW TO DECANT A SEDIMENT-FILLED WINE?
For a sediment-filled wine, set the bottle upright for a day or so before consumption, allowing sediment to settle at the bottom of the bottle. About one hour prior to consumption, uncork the wine and grab a clear vessel, whether it be a decanter, a plastic jar, or simply another empty wine bottle. Hold a light under the neck of the wine to be emptied and slowly pour the wine into the clear vessel. Once you can see the sediment reaching the neck of the bottle, stop pouring. Remember, sediment doesn’t necessarily have to be large and overtly noticeable; if a wine begins pouring cloudy, that means there’s sediment in there, too.
Here's a little video on how to decant a potentially sediment-filled red wine, demonstrated by our San Francisco team member, Mack:
HOW TO DECANT FOR AERATION?
Decanting a wine, without sediment, to simply aerate it or introduce oxygen is pretty easy. Simply open your bottle, pour the wine into a decanter (as you would into a glass), and let your wine rest. Air will make its way into the wine through the mere act of pouring the wine, but if you're looking to help it "open up" further, letting it rest anywhere from 20 minutes to several hours will help to bring out additional flavors.
And while older wines generally need some form of decanting to remove the juice from sediment, over-decanting aged wines can actually kill the experience, muting delicate aromas and stripping away the wine’s fragile, complex flavor profile. Older wines should be carefully decanted, anywhere from 30 - 120 minutes, depending on the wine, to ensure that negative effects of oxidation don’t settle in.
Moral of the story? Decanting is beneficial to most wines, though definitely not always necessary. Light, low-tannin reds, such as Old World Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Trousseau are generally fine without. No time to decant? No problem. Simply pop, clink, and enjoy.