Friday, 19 April 2013

Wine for Beginners: Why Decanting Wine Is Worth The Wait

A decanter like this is ideal for the sort
of person with an inferiority complex.
Decanting your bottle of wine and allowing it to breath before drinking it seems to be something that’s well in decline. Maybe the reason behind this is people just thinking "why the hell would I do that?" and the idea of making more washing up isn't too appealing either. In actual fact, decanting a wine and allowing it to open up can be very beneficial.

There are various reasons why you might decant a bottle of wine. One being if you are drinking a bottle of an aged and unfiltered red it is likely to contain sediment. So while decanting you have the opportunity to remove the wine from the bottle, leaving the sediment behind.
Mainly though, you would decant a wine in order to let it to open up, bringing out all the nice flavours and aromas that may otherwise not develop to their full potential. Sometimes an older wine might develop a bit of a stink while it sits in bottle for years and decanting it can help bring out the more attractive notes. Also, if you are drinking a really young, full bodied red, decanting can just help soften it up a bit and tone down the harsh tannins.

The point of a decanter is that the surface area of the wine is increased, meaning more contact with oxygen is possible, speeding up the process of allowing the wine to 'open up'. Opening a bottle of wine and thinking “I’ll just leave it 10 minutes and let it breath in the bottle” will do bugger all because only the surface of the wine in the bottle neck is in contact with air, so don’t bother, you're just wasting your time; letting yourself down and letting down your family too. You don't want that hanging over you do you? Thought not.

If you are a cynical shit who wont believe a word of it without hard evidence, you can test this for yourself. Get a glass of wine (you can tell this is a tough experiment already), take a sniff and a swig straight away and then leave it. After 10 to 15 minutes take another sniff and swig and you should notice all sorts of flavours you didn't pick up on first time around. This is exactly what is achieved by decanting, just on a smaller scale.

You don’t need to spend a pile of cash on an expensive crystal decanter in order for your wine to breath nicely, you could pour it into a saucepan and have basically the same effect, it just wouldn't look so good when you have the queen round for dinner on curry Friday.

Decanters come in all different shapes and at a wide range of prices. There are plenty to choose from at House of Fraser, and they don't all cost the earth, starting from £14. 
Alternatively, if you are feeling like you want to either set fire to your money because you just have too darn much of it, or throw it at something that looks pretty because you can, this Riedel decanter from John Lewis should float your boat at £180.00. There’s no denying it does look bloody nice though.

It is important to remember though that decanting a cheap and basic bottle of wine won’t suddenly make it taste great. Decanting your wine is well worth doing if you are having something a bit more special and ensures you really make the most of what you are drinking but doing it with a bottle of something cheap and nasty wont magically make it taste muchos delicioso (I'm pretty sure that isn't a real language but hey, screw you).

Likewise, if your 'something special' is particularly old and precious (such as a 1997 Bordeaux) then beware decanting it too long! 15 minutes may be more than enough before the oxygen starts to play havoc with such a delicate, fussy wine. If you have a particular bottle in mind, ask your friendly local wine merchant/know-it-all.

I would recommend anyone who is a regular drinker of Malbec, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and anything else along those lines should invest in a decanter because, at a lower to medium price point, these wines will benefit from decanting more so than most. Give it a go; it might transform a wine you thought you knew very well.

Let us know if you think decanting is worth it by commenting below or on our twitter and facebook. Have you tried it yet?

Freddy Bulmer.
Photo taken from VinoFamily's photostream under the creative commons license

1 comment:

  1. The most important aspect in choosing a decanter is to have very clean crystal. Never clean a decanter with detergent as the shape of most decanters makes it very difficult to get the soapy residue out. Instead, mix crushed ice and coarse salt and swirl in the decanter. Allow to air dry.

    wine decanters