Decanting seems like such a high-and-mighty activity and, quite frankly, sometimes its avoided by people I know because they don’t want to seem that uptight. Although I do have one buddy – yes the same buddy who put a glass of red in the microwave because it was too cold – who plunked down $150 for a decanter specifically because he wanted to look all high-and-mighty. But there is no accounting for the logic of…well lets just call him G to protect the innocent.
Anyway, when to decant a wine. Lets start with a young wine…
Decanting young red wine is generally good for hearty types – cabernets, merlot, etc… to help it “open up”. This basically means to expose it to air and allow oxidation to occur which will soften the tannic and/or alcholic tastes. You simple transfer the bottle into a decanter about an hour before you serve it.
Now G decants just about anything he puts out there but you’ll want to refrain from decanting ‘delicate’ red wines like Pinot Noir or Grenache because aeration of these can cause a sharp metallic flavor. By the way, swirling in the glass – mild form of aeration. Also creates a thin layer of wine on the edges of the glass that evaporates quickly and enhances the smells – but thats off topic.
Old wines are a different story and are decanted for different reasons. Generally you want to decant old red wines to remove the sediment that has developed
over the years. Before decanting an older wine be sure to stand it up for 6-12 hours to allow the sediment to settle at the bottom of the bottle (if it was stored on its side as it should be you need to be sure to do that). You’re going to want to decant the wine just prior to serving. Handle is carefully or you’ll stir up all the sediment you just had settle to the bottom. Use some soft light to shine up from beneath the bottle as you pour so you can see when the sediment bottle starts to get closer to the top of the bottle. Stop pouring right before the sediment comes out. In the end, you should have an ounce or so left in the bottom of the bottle with the sediment in there.
Enjoy the Wine Life!