I’ve noticed that one or two of the posts I’ve sent out on “Tasting Tuesdays” have mentioned that I recommend decanting the wines for an hour or two before drinking them. So what do I mean by decanting, and why bother do it?
First things first, 99% of the time in the world of wine you’d only decant red wines. So don’t worry too much about whites, rosés, and definitely not sparkling wines!
So why do reds need decanting? Well it’s best to split them up between young reds (say less than 5 years old as a rule of thumb) and aged reds.
Why decant young reds? Anyone who’s tried reds when they’re very young knows that the tannins, those proteins in the wine that cling to your gums, are a lot more forceful and grippy in the first glass. That’s because they’ve been bottled up for a few months, with no oxygen contact, and are bursting to get out.
Give young wines anything from one hour to up to 12 hours in an open topped decanter (or an open topped water jug) before you drink them. You want as much air to get to the wine as possible to let the wine oxidise, which for young wines you’re going to drink that day will just calm the tannins down, keep the full body, and allow you to enjoy the fruity flavour of the wine more.
For aged wines then it’s all about sediment. Now drinking sediment won’t kill you, but it doesn’t taste nice, and you’ll not want to be too far from conveniences the next day! So this is why you’re looking at a flat-bottomed decanter (look at the photo up the top) with a thin swan neck.
Oxygen is not required, hence the thin neck. Too much oxygen and the volatile alcohol of older wines can evaporate and ruin the structure of the wine. You want a flat bottom so the wine can throw its sediment (maybe an hour tops?), and then you want to drink it. Anyone decanting old wines for more than an hour or two is committing a heinous crime! Stop it! Stop it now!!!
Hope that explains why we decant wines, if you’ve got any follow up questions then please give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of www.20h33.co.uk