Decanting is a word that conjures up mystery and ritual. According to Webster’s dictionary, to decant is to “pour off gently, as liquor, so as not to disturb the sediment, or to pour from one vessel into another: as to decant wine.” Very old wines and vintage Ports are decanted to separate the clear wine from the sediment in the bottle,but for the most part wine is decanted in order to expose it to oxygen.
Wine industry experts argue back and forth about the benefits of decanting wines. Decanting your wine is the simplest and easiest ( not to mention the most inexpensive ) way that there is to improve your wine. Not all wine kits benefit from decanting. Young, fruity wines like White Zinfandel or our Island Mist wines don’t always show any improvement upon decanting. However, almost all of the rest of the red wines, and a few of the whites can be improved quite wonderfully by decanting 1 – 2 hours before serving. The reds will “open up” and show off their aromatic complexity much better, this is especially true of the full-bodied, structured reds such as the Eclipse Lodi Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon or Italian Piedmont Nebbiolo. Oaky whites ( like Australian Chardonnay or Luna Bianca ) will smooth out and show a much more integrated oak character. You should keep in mind 2 things about decanting:
1 ) a proper decanter looks like a genie bottle: the bottom will be very broad and flattened out, and the neck will have a flared opening to make it easy to pour the wine inside. The broad bottom allows the wine to spread out and expose more of its surface area to the air.
2 ) be careful to keep your decanted wine at the right serving temperature while it’s breathing: if it’s a white wine, you may need to keep the decanter in a chilled receptacle. It it’s a red, you’ll need to put it in an area that’s around 18 degrees C so it doesn’t warm up or get chilled while it breathes.
The next time you are hosting guests, open and decant a bottle of your wine two hours before they arrive. Open another bottle when everyone is ready for a glass. You and your guests will probably be surprised and impressed by the improvements in flavour and aroma that decanting provides!