How to decant a wine?

You might think that serving a wine is quite easy: just open it and pour it. Anyone who has ever looked up information on how to serve each type of wine knows that sometimes it's not that simple. Decanting is one of those parts of wine service that remains mysterious and intimidating to many wine lovers: what is its purpose? Which wines need it? When and how to do it?

What is settling?

Literally, to decant means to transfer the contents of a bottle of wine to another container (the decanter) before serving. This may seem insane. One might wonder how pouring wine from one container to another changes its taste? But it is a reality.

In more oenological language, decantation consists of pouring the contents of a bottle of wine into a carafe, in order to separate any deposit from the clear wine and to oxygenate it . This favors the bouquet (all the aromas) of the wine and rounds out its tannins. We generally speak of decanting when the procedure makes it possible to aerate the wine, by passing through a decanter in contact with the air, so that the wine (often young) can expand and settle down.

The possible presence of a deposit is quite normal, because wine is a living product. When dry or sweet white wines are stored for a certain time and at a cool temperature, one of the natural components of wine will solidify and form a white deposit in the form of crystals. It is true that it is a bit embarrassing to find a solid substance in the wine, but the quality of the latter is not affected. For red wines , after aging in the bottle, the color and tannins solidify and create a deposit at the bottom of the bottle. This phenomenon is normal and harmless neither for you nor for the quality of the wine you are going to drink.

A candle is generally used as a light source to see by transparency if the deposit is present, in which case the decanting of the wine is immediately interrupted. The clear wine is thus collected in the carafe, the sediment remaining in the bottle.

Wine connoisseurs love to sit for hours and debate the pros and cons of this procedure, but while it can distort some types of wine, be aware that careful decanting can benefit the taste of anyone. what a wine.

Her goals

Basically, decanting serves two purposes: to separate a wine of any sediment that has formed, and to aerate it in the hopes that its aromas and flavors will be more lively when served.

It is important to note that wine needs air to breathe and express itself. It has a life cycle just like human beings. Young, it seduces you with its fruity aromas. Mature, it is often elegant and dense. At the end of its life, it becomes sober and discreet. Therefore, the younger and more powerful the wine, the more oxygen it needs to reveal itself, to develop its flavors and achieve a rounded texture. This is why a bottle of wine opened the day before is often better the next day. As for an aged wine, the quantity of oxygen must be moderate to reveal it without weakening it.

So when you decant a bottle of wine , two things happen. First of all, a slow and careful decantation allows the wine (especially old wine) to separate from its sediments. If its sediment is left mixed in the wine, it will impart a very noticeable bitter and astringent flavor to it. Similarly, when you pour wine into a carafe, the resulting agitation causes the wine to mix with oxygen, allowing it to develop and come to life at an accelerated rate (this is especially important for a young wine).

This procedure therefore allows you to reveal the potential of your wine and to highlight its flavors, if you have decided to open it before its peak.

When and how to decant wine

Some wines are often still not very homogeneous, their elements still being a little scattered, which is why they should be decanted rather than decanted. Thus, a wine is decanted in order to calm it down and flesh it out. These are mainly young white or red wines. They need to be shaken up a bit, to be more welcoming. However, all young wines with a rich, complex structure (especially southern wines) should be decanted. This procedure is even more recommended when the tannic load of the wine is high, because it is these tannins that will allow it to hold over time. But when exactly should you decant a wine? It would be better to decant a wine about two hours before sitting down to eat, and not when guests arrive. In addition, the so-called “Bordelaise” method makes it possible to efficiently prepare a wine at the last moment. It simply consists of decanting the wine, then pouring it back into its bottle.

However, care must be taken with generic names using the pinot noir grape variety , because the latter does not tolerate oxidation relatively well. It is therefore necessary to avoid decanting them, otherwise they will tire quite quickly.

On the other hand, you can decant old wines, which can withstand this procedure, provided that they are built for it (because oxygenation can be denaturing for certain wines). Their architecture must also be very solid, powerful, their structure opulent, and their tannins still present, even firm at the time of this act. Indeed, it is the tannins that allow the wines to hold up over time, and if they are still firm, or at least very present, we can think that decantation will improve the quality of the wine. This is the case, for example, of a very great wine, in a very great vintage. The same is true for Bordeaux wines, great wines from the Rhône Valley, wines with a strong tannic structure, exceptional vintages such as 1990, 1989, 1986, and 1982, or even the oldest such as 1970, 1961. , and the 1945.

You can take the following steps to perform this act:

1. Set the bottle upright for 24 hours or more before the procedure, so that the sediment can slide down the bottle, making it easier to separate;

2. Find a decanter or other clean container from which wine can easily be poured into glasses. If necessary, plan a candlestick and a saucer to present the cork;

3. Open the bottle without rotating it. With delicacy and elegance, tilt the bottle slightly and pour yourself a little wine to control it (a simple rotation of the upper body is enough). Wipe the neck of the bottle with a towel. This step, which marks the start of decanting, should be done as late as possible, before serving;

4. Light a candle and hold it under the neck of the bottle ;

5. Pour the wine very gently along the sides of the decanter , slowly and evenly, without leaning or stopping. When you get to the bottom half of the bottle, pour more slowly;

6. Stop pouring the wine as soon as you see the sediment or deposit reaching the shoulder of the bottle , the flame will allow you to see it. Sediments are not always large and obvious; stop if the wine becomes cloudy or if you see hints of dust in the shoulder of the bottle;

7. The wine is now ready to serve .

Which decanter to choose?

A decanter must be chosen according to the type of wine to be decanted. A young and powerful red wine requires a lot of oxygen. It is therefore essential to aerate it by pouring it into a very large carafe. This allows the wine to express itself, soften its tannins and reduce the acidity of the white wine .

A tender red wine and a young white wine require little oxygen. It is therefore essential to aerate these wines by pouring them into a rather narrow decanter. They will become better and more aromatic.

Red wines and aged white wines must be protected from oxygen. Therefore, it is essential to pour these wines into a narrow decanter. They will become better and more refined.

Aerators are also very practical accessories that ensure better oxygenation for young and powerful red wines . The aerator disperses the wine on the walls of the decanter to ensure intense oxygenation . The wine may become tastier and fruitier.