Wine is a beloved drink throughout the years in many parts of the world. When you go to a restaurant and you taste their wine, you immediately think that it tastes good because it is a high-quality wine. Of course, this is a big factor of a good-tasting product but a less expensive wine can taste just as good. What could be the differing factor?
The answer: wine decanting. Basically, decanting is the process of transferring the wine from its bottle to another vessel called a decanter to introduce air to the wine and to separate it from its sediments. This process can help the wine release its flavors and aromas so it can be enjoyed at it best.
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How long should you decant your wines?
Every wine has its own nuances that you want to highlight. The duration of decanting has a lot to do with its age. If a wine is made to taste better over time and it is opened at a young age, then that wine will certainly need to be decanted to make up for the years that it should have been decanted and improved.
The process will help the flavors and smells to open up and mellow out the tannins and make the wine taste better. While we cannot discuss everything here, we can give you a peek into the basics of decanting a particular wine varietal.
In the case of Pinot Noir, while it is one of the most popular wine varietals, decanting it seems to be a puzzle to be solved for sommeliers. Some sommeliers strongly say to never decant Pinot Noir because its grape flavor is already great and they like it to stay that way. Pinot Noir is a lighter type of wine, it relatively has a low tannin content and only ages from 2 - 18 years, depending on the type.
However, some sommeliers argue that decanting Pinot Noir will make it taste complex and will give it depth that others might enjoy. The decanting time should be 30 minutes to 1 hour. Whichever side you take, it’s better if you try it yourself and compare the taste between decanted and not decanted Pinot Noir.
If you are not familiar with Rioja wine, you should know that it is a Spanish wine that is arguably the most famous Spanish wine in America. It is a special wine because it is ensured that it is in the best condition for drinking for it to be sold in the market as required by the law.
There are four categories of Rioja wine namely, Rioja, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva and their aging time is ascending based on how they are mentioned. The maximum years that a Rioja wine is aged is about 5 years.
Generally, Rioja wines are aged in oak barrels resulting in a lingering and round oaky taste. They are considered to be full-bodied and young wines so they will need more time to be decanted, about 1 to 2 hours should be good.
However, there are some that are practically ready to be consumed after opening the bottle. If you are not confident about which route you should take, then you better test it out.
Try pouring a small amount of wine in a glass and drink it. Engage all your senses and decide if it needs to be decanted or not. If yes, then you should decant it. Just remember that not all Rioja wines are the same.
Port is a wine known for its age because they can reach up to 50 years old and much of this aging happens in the bottle. With so much time spent in their bottles, sediments tend to form over the years and this is the main reason for decanting port.
Vintage ports are considered old wines because not only do they take at least 2 years aging in the cask but could also continue maturing in their bottles for decades to come.
With all of this time, it is only understandable to decant the wine to get rid of the sediments that have accumulated over the years. Those sediments can mask the great flavor profile of the wine because they are bitter and gritty.
However, not all port wines continue their aging process in the bottles. Some actually have their aging process only in the cask and before they are bottled, they will be filtered to remove the sediments. They also tend to already have a fruity flavor so they can be enjoyed immediately after opening the bottle.
On the other hand, younger ports are decanted so they can breathe and taste better. If a port wine is less than 40 years old, it must first be standing upright for 10 - 15 minutes and 30 minutes for the older port to let the sediments settle at the bottom of the bottle.
After this, it is time to decant. Less than 40 years old ports should be decanted for 2 - 3 hours before serving and older ports should only take about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Alongside Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Pinot Noir, Burgundy is another famous wine and it comes in both red and white. Despite sharing the fame, Burgundy has a different structure.
Burgundy, generally, is old and delicate and are naturally low in tannins so they don’t need to be decanted. Decanting Burgundy may risk its wonderful fragrance to fade away. Old Burgundy is preferred to be poured directly into the wine glasses and they will aerate there through swirling.
However, young Burgundy may be decanted so they can open up and release their best qualities. White Burgundy for instance will give quite an unpleasant smell when a bottle is opened so to tone this down, decant the wine for about 30 minutes. Take note that old Burgundy is very fragile and they don’t need to be decanted.
Barolo wine falls under the category of bold and high-tannin wine so they are candidates for decanting. It is one of the wines that take the longest time to decant, about 3 hours and can even reach up to 8 hours. If it is older Barolo, decanting will just take less than 3 hours.
Barolo wines need sufficient exposure to oxygen so their tannins can break down and soften so they can be enjoyed more. This is one of the wines that are not argued upon whether it must be decanted or not, so next time you buy a Barolo wine, be sure to decant it to experience a great-tasting wine.
Shiraz wine also goes by the name Syrah. It is characterized as a bold and full-bodied wine. It is packed with fruity and smoky flavors, it is round, dense and relatively has a high tannin content.
Shiraz is one of the wines that you can’t doubt if it needs decanting or not. It is considered a young wine so it benefits much from decanting. It should rest in a decanter for about 2 hours. If they are more than 20 years old, they only need a lesser time to decant.
What do you put in a crystal decanter?
You would normally see crystal decanters to hold liquors instead of wine. Nowadays, wine decanters are made from lead-free crystal, which is essentially just glass, because there are notions that lead is harmful and can spoil the wine faster.
In the case of liquors like whiskey, vodka, gin, rum, tequila etc., they tend to have a higher alcohol content than wine which can help in their life span to prolong. Liquor decanters are distinguishable because they are smaller, usually square-cut and they are carved with designs and they have stoppers.
Even if liquors can be stored longer than wine in a crystal decanter, they are still at risk because over time, the lead in the crystal decanter can leach into the liquor, making it dangerous to ingest.
Decanters serve more purpose for wines than liquors because they enable the drink to be better in terms of taste, smell and overall flavor. For liquors, decanters help elevate the look and overall presentation.
Given that these are broad categories of drinks, there are numerous drinks that you can put in a decanter. Juice and water, for their part, does not need a decanter. A similar vessel called a carafe is more suitable for non-alcoholic beverages. Of course, beer is not also welcome to a decanter.
Will port go off in a decanter?
As they say, nothing lasts forever. Normally, when a wine is decanted, it is meant to be consumed all in a short time unlike liquors such as whiskey that can stay in a decanter for a longer time.
Port has a high alcohol content as well as residual sugars that protect it from degrading in the decanter. But, it will not last longer than a week. Too much exposure to oxygen can make the wine’s flavor dull and unpleasant.
If there is unfinished port, you can return it to its original bottle and put it in the refrigerator but it is not a guarantee that its flavors will be preserved. And you have to consume it within 3 days or less, otherwise, it will result in major negative changes to the wine.
It is true that decanting does wonders to your wine. However, you should also be mindful because not all wine should be decanted, especially those that are delicate or are already great.
Decanting these types of wines can do the opposite which is to mute the flavors. The decanting time with their corresponding wine types above are only suggestions. Besides, you have your own preferences, right? So, if you are serious with your wines, you can do your simple experiment by testing them out with and without the help of decanting and see which works for you best.
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