Wine, Decanted: An Inside Look Outside the Bottle
Putting the ‘Can’ in Decant
So, you’re thinking of decanting your wine?
Whether you’ve just poured your first glass or have poured over the literature for years, decanting is a practice, simple yet elegant, that can be done at home as well as in-house. Just select any one of those bottles from your Gold Medal Wine Club shipments and put that wine to work for you!
Speaking of work, let’s get to it.
Wine Decanting, Defined
To decant, in a Webster word, is to "enhance", and what exactly are we enhancing when we decant? I think a better question is what are we not enhancing?
Flavor, Aroma, Texture, Clarity...
The answer is elemental, my dear reader.
In a word - or two - decanting is fashionably functional. Flexing this technique for all of your friends and soon to be admirers will not only separate you from the rest of the starter-pack ‘somms’, but will also separate the sediment that has accumulated in the bottle from the desirable wine, i.e. the clear wine. Additionally, decanting, which is simply a matter of transferring the wine from the bottle to another vessel - shapes and sizes to be discussed - treats the long cloistered liquid to a much needed breath of fresh air.
To age wine is to uphold the sanctity of not only enological tradition, but enological integrity. There is a reason that to ‘age like a fine wine’ is to age gracefully and/or even to age in such a manner as to surpass even the supreme version of your younger self. Aged wine, subject to grape variety and style, is wine that has been given the opportunity to ruminate and realize its full potential in a structural, sensory, and stylistic way.
But nobody, and no wine, lives forever. Eventually, that wine is going to need to come down from the shelf.
As previously mentioned, sediment collects in wine in the bottle over time naturally, leaving it drinkable but gritty, cloudy, and in some cases bitter. Additionally, the desirable qualities of the wine tend to dull the longer the wine is left in the bottle.
What’s a wine enthusiast to do?
Remember when I mentioned those special bottles from your wine subscription shipments? The time has come to bring those bottles up from the cellar or down from the shelf.
Wine, Meet Decanter
You might be asking yourself how exactly to make the most out of your decision to decant. The answer is simple:
Choose the right wine to pour at the right time into the right decanter.
Step One: Select your wine
We suggest choosing a red, as red wines collect the most sediment throughout the aging process, and we recommend choosing a variety that would benefit most from exposure to air, such as a Cabernet, Malbec, or Sangiovese, which all tend toward the tannic side and are usually structurally rich.
No matter which wine you select, it helps to stand that bottle right side up for a minimum of a day, or 24 hours, in an effort to allow that sediment that has collected in the bottle to collect at the bottom, further separating the wine from the debris that makes it appear cloudy and taste gritty. When you finally do proceed to decant that wine, it will already be well on its way to being the smooth, clear substance you, as a Gold Medal Wine Club reader, expect from your wine.
Step Two: Select your decanter
Next, select your decanter, and, in this case, it is all about that base! To explain, a wider base allows a wine greater access to oxygen, accelerating the decanting process. Therefore, when considering a light-bodied red wine, such as a Zinfandel, or even a white wine, such as a Chenin Blanc, appropriate for aging, select a small decanter.
For a medium-bodied red wine, such as a Barbera, use a decanter of moderate size, and for your full-bodied red wines, such as your Cabs and Syrahs, upgrade to a large decanter. In order to allow your wine to truly breathe deep - in other words, to experience the full effect of aeration - we recommend allowing your wine to decant for approximately 30 minutes before pouring at dinner, or whenever you’re in the mood to enjoy that glass.
Recommended Decanter Shapes
The functional aspects of decanting having been established, let’s take a moment to discuss the fashionable. The shape of the decanter, similar to its size, is essentially a matter of taste, but, in this case, personal taste, your personal taste. Provided below is a selection of decanters for every taste, including yours.
The Classic Decanter:
Ideal for the traditionalist and a quiet evening at home, this decanter starts wide at the base, narrows at the neck, then blooms at the lip.
The Swan Decanter:
Designed exactly as the bird it is named after, this U-shaped decanter will suit the host with an aim to end the small talk and get the conversation - and the wine - flowing.
The Cornett Decanter:
For the wine enthusiast caught somewhere between a glass with dinner and a glass raised in a toast with friends, this decanter has a rounded, wider base with a tapered, slightly crooked neck.
Now that you know that you are the one who puts the ‘can’ in decant, dust off those quality wine bottles and show off that decanter! After all, it is your excellent taste that makes any wine you choose to decant, taste excellent.
Author Bio: Meghan ‘Fitzy’ Fitzgerald is a recent graduate of enology and viticulture from the Institute for Enology and Viticulture in Walla Walla Washington and currently works as a contributing author for the wine marketing industry with a focus in content writing. She continues to write feature pieces for Gold Medal Wine Club as she works toward establishing herself as a professional writer within the wine industry.