Poor decanters. Most of them sit on a lonely shelf, looking pretty, gathering dust, its owners occasionally looking at the empty container wondering, when am I supposed to use that thing, anyway? The answer? Often! You don’t need a 30-year-old wine full of sediment to use and enjoy a decanter. Even if you are drinking something as simple and youthful as Two Buck Chuck, a decanter sure does make it look nicer on the table!
There are two main purposes of a decanter:
- 1. To remove sediment from a wine
- 2. To aerate a wine
For the first, as a wine ages, it can throw a sediment, which collects at the bottom of the bottle. The decanter allows one to remove the wine from its sediment by slowly pouring the liquid into the decanter, keeping the sediment in the bottle.
How is this done? First, a day before you plan to drink an older bottle, gently stand it upright (it should be lying on its side in the cellar) and let it stand for a day. This way the sediment will slowly fall to the bottom of the bottle. Then, open the bottle and carefully and slowly pour the wine into the decanter. Towards the end, you will want to carefully watch and stop pouring once you get to the sediment. In formal restaurants, sommeliers use a candle under the bottle to help see the sediment. For your purposes, I’m sure any good lighting will do. Some older wines should be drunk right away while others benefit with some more cellar time.
You will most likely have many more opportunities to utilize a decanter for the second purpose – aerating a young wine. We are often eager to drink a wine right away, even when it is very young. To help it loosen up a bit, you need to let the wine breathe. Opening the wine does not qualify – that one inch diameter of wine that sees air thorough the bottle neck doesn’t do much ! Pouring the wine into a decanter allows much more of the wine’s surface area to see air, opening up a young, tight wine. The air helps the aromas and flavors open up, allowing you to enjoy more of the wine. This is the way to enjoy a young Bordeaux or California Cabernet – or any big wine for that matter.
So take the decanter off the shelf, and use it. It will enhance your wine drinking experience and always look pretty on the table.
Also, remember that a beautiful decanter makes a great gift for the wine lover – either to use, or just look pretty on the shelf.