The Art of Decanting

by Piers Lewis

If you have an old bottle of wine you have been saving for a while, or you have bought one with some age already, Decanting the wine can enhance the experience of drinking a beautifully aged wine.  I have now collected wine long enough to have a decent array of aged wine that I love to open when friends are coming over for dinner.  A bit of planning is required though, to ensure I get the most out of the wine I have cared for and cellared for years.

Decanting wine involves pouring liquid from one container to another; often using a specialised wine decanter with a wide base. This broad base helps to increase the surface area of the wine, thereby allowing more oxygen to come in contact with the wine, allowing the complex flavours the aged wine has developed to express themselves. Decanting can also be undertaken when a bottle of wine would benefit from rapid aerating or when sediment is present in the bottle.  

Another benefit of decanting aged wines is that they can produce sediment and the decanting process, if done properly, can eliminate the sediment. Pouring the wine direct from the bottle could result in sediment being present in the glass, which would make the wine taste sharper than intended and may produce a slightly gritty glass of wine when served. 

Most wines aged for more than five to 10 years will likely have some sediment and should be decanted. It is also widely believed that aerating the wine, enhances the complex flavours locked within it.  When trying to eliminate sediment, you may not see anything when you hold the bottle up to the light, but chances are sediment is present and it’s worthwhile decanting, just in case. 

Before decanting, keep the bottle upright for a day or two would be ideal, so the sediment makes its way to the bottom, then pour the wine very slowly and steadily into the decanter, stopping only when you see some sediment or cloudiness appear. If you can, shine a light from a torch or a candle stick under the neck of the bottle as you pour – you’ll then be able to see when the consistency changes due to any sediment present. Any liquid with sediment that remains in the bottle can then be discarded. 

Younger and more tannic wines can benefit the most from the rapid aeration decanting provides. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet blends, Shiraz/Syrah, and Shiraz/Syrah blends, such as Dawine’s Atkins Farm 2014 Shiraz  are all full-bodied, high in tannins and tend to perform best when decanted. These you can decant between 30 minutes to two hours before drinking. 

There are many arguments between wine experts as to how long you should leave a wine aerating, once decanted.  Some suggest that a fine, aged wine should be decanted for up to 6 hours before drinking, whereas some state that if you wait that long you can reduce the flavour of the wine.  Personally, I would decant the wine and leave to air for at least one hour before drinking.

While it is most common to decant red wines, aged white wines can also benefit from decanting, which can help smooth and round out the flavours. 

Decanting can be a speedy way to get a wine to its peak, so that it can be shared among loved ones. If you find that the process is taking longer than expected, try pouring once or twice between two decanters, to introduce more oxygen. You can also swirl the wine in the decanter itself, or opt for a wine aerating attachment that rapidly introduces air while pouring. 

When it comes to decanting, what’s required is a blend of common sense and experimentation. Next time you’re with friends or family, try decanting your favourite Dawine bottle of wine and observe the transformation that occurs.

Until next time,

Cheers from Piers

Category: Education



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