How to Serve Wine : Decanters
How to Serve Wine : Decanters
Once you've gotten to know your way around wines by reading our Wine FAQ and Complete Wine Tasting Guide, you'll probably start wondering what all the decanting fuss is about. We've broken down the basic elements of decanting, why to do it, how to do it, and when to do it, in order to give you a clearer understanding of what wine decanting is.
Other than to separate wine from the sediment which can accumulate at the bottom of a wine bottle (this is one of the reasons that there is a punt, or indentation on the bottom of most bottles ) the main reason decanting is good for a wine is it allows the wine to breathe and, hopefully, open up a wine's complexity without fading it. Often, very young and inexpensive red wines benefit from this greatly. Decanting a young wine into a larger container several hours prior to serving seems to take the "edge" off the wine and allow some measures of complexity to develop. It's best to experiment and have fun in order to taste the differences yourself. Buy two bottles of inexpensive red wine, pour one into a decanter 3-5 hours prior to being ready to drink it. Then, just when you sit down, open the other bottle and taste them side by side. This is especially fun to try with an inexpensive (a l Cabernet Sauvignon that goes for less than $10 is a great candidate) red wine.
Selecting a Decanter
The wine decanter should be large enough to hold about twice the amount of wine that you plan to put in it. It will look "half full" once you're done. The reason for this is that decanting is done in order to allow the wine to come into contact with as much air as possible.
How to Decant
For older red wines there will possibly be some sediment that accumulates in the bottle. If you've kept them in a rack, this will be along the side of the bottle. If you want to decant such a wine, stand it upright at least 24 hours (preferably 3-4 days) prior to decanting so that the sediment can settle to the bottom. When it is ready to decant, gently, so as not to stir up the sediment, bring the bottle into the kitchen.
Set a candle or a flashlight up on your counter. Take the decanter in your left hand (assuming you're right handed) and tilt it towards the candle.
Take the bottle of wine in your right hand and, slowly, bring it up to where you can both pour it down the side of the decanter and see the candle through the neck of the bottle.
As you, once again, slowly pour out the wine, you will eventually start to see a slight "ribbon" of sediment headed towards the neck of the bottle. Once this reaches the neck, it's time to stop. You'll probably have about 1-2" of wine left in the bottle after you are done.
It is pertinent that in order to get the most out of a vintage port that it be decanted. The main reason for this is that vintage port is aged fully in the bottle which throws off a great deal of sediment in the process. To make things even more challenging, many old port bottles are so dark that there is no way you can see a candle through the neck. The following has proven helpful however. Slosh the bottle around a bit and then let it stand up for at least 3 days prior to serving.
Using a "wide mouth" decanter, take fine cheesecloth and fold it back and forth to make approximately 6-8 layers of cloth and drape it down into the mouth of the decanter.
Slowly pour the port through the cloth to strain out the sediment. If you are not going to be serving the entire bottle at one seating, take the bottle and rinse it out really well with hot water until there is no sediment which can be seen. Then fill it with cold water to cool the glass down. You can then pour what's left of the port into the bottle and put it back into the cellar. Bottles can last several months with this method. Note: If you don't have a cellar, you can choose to store your wine in your refrigerator. When you want to drink some, just make sure that you pour it early enough that it has time to warm in the glass.