It is sometimes said that certain wines must be decanted to be better. And if pouring a bottle of wine into a carafe seems rather simple, the art of decanting turns out to be much more complex. Discover the importance of decanting wine, and the technique for decanting your best bottles .
Decanting a wine: what does that mean?
Decanting a wine means putting it in a carafe, in order to separate any solid residues that may be found at the bottom of the bottle. These deposits come from tannins, form during the aging of the wine, and can completely spoil a tasting if they end up in the mouth.
As you will have understood, decanting is therefore only necessary for wines with a tannic structure, in other words, red wines, and more particularly old red wines. Indeed, young wines do not have as many impurities, because they have not aged sufficiently.
Passing through a wine carafe then allows the residues to settle to the bottom, so that, when serving, you do not find them in the glass. It is the specific shape of the carafe which will ensure you have a clear and pure wine.
Why should wines be decanted?
The main objective of decanting is to eliminate residues that have formed in the bottle during the aging of the wine. This action will have the merit of releasing the aromas, until then stifled by the impurities of the tannins in the wines. The wine then regains all its vivacity and its aromas can once again express themselves intensely.
Furthermore, the transfer of the wine from the bottle to the narrow carafe allows better oxygenation of the wine. It is for him the opportunity to free himself from any unpleasant odors, which could have come through the cork, and to wake up gently after a long sleep.
What is the difference between decanting and decanting wine?
It is common to use the words "decanter", "aerate" and "decant" interchangeably when talking about a wine. However, these terms do not have the same definition. Aerating a wine consists of decanting it, that is to say, simply transferring it to a carafe, or even a glass, to oxygenate it and balance the aromas . Carafing then concerns all types of wine.
Decanting wines is a more complex process, which consists of removing any deposits , in order to release the wines and let them express themselves. It is therefore advisable, particularly for old vintages, to decant the wine, without aerating it, in order to eliminate residues, without risking losing the beautiful balance of aromas.
It is also to achieve this objective that the decanting carafe has a particular shape, with a narrow neck, to limit the contact surface between the wine and the air.
Which wines should be decanted? And which ones need to be ventilated?
You will have understood, not all wines are decanted , and not all wines are aerated either. Generally speaking, if the wine has no deposit, decanting is of no interest. This is the case for white wines, rosé wines, and young red wines.
On the other hand, it may be interesting, for these types of wine, to decant them. Aeration in the carafe can then help them develop their aromas.
Decanting is then reserved for tannic red wines with real character, as is the case with great wines from the Rhône Valley or Bordeaux, for example.
What is the process for decanting wines?
Wine is a living product that should not be rushed. The passage into the carafe therefore requires your vigilance, and must respect a certain process.
When should you decant a wine?
Aging a wine in the cellar inevitably leads to the formation of residues. It is therefore necessary to anticipate the serving, to ensure that there is no deposit in the glass or in the mouth during tasting. Then start by raising your bottle of wine vertically , several hours before opening, so that the majority of small particles settle at the bottom of the bottle.
Next, you also need to plan for the decanting time , which varies depending on the type of wine.
How long should you leave wine in a decanting carafe?
The carafing will take longer or shorter depending on the age of the wine and the years of aging.
- Young wines , less than 5 years old, can be decanted for 4 hours in decanting carafes, but this step is optional;
- More mature wines , 6 to 10 years old, can be placed in wine decanters for 1 to 2 hours before serving in the glass;
- Old, powerful wines , more than 10 years old, must be decanted delicately, limiting aeration to 10 to 15 minutes as much as possible. Light contact with air is essential, so as not to lose all the aromas of the wine and to maintain a good structure.
How to successfully complete the decanting process?
To successfully carafe , the wine lover must follow a certain process, in several stages:
- Raise the bottle vertically at least 12 to 24 hours before opening;
- Open the bottle, clean the neck, and let the wine breathe for a few hours;
- To monitor the deposit at the bottom of the wine carafe, you can place a lit candle nearby. It will allow you to ensure that you pour the wine more or less quickly, and to ensure that the residue settles well;
- Pour the wine very delicately, taking care to stop when the solid parts approach the neck.
Good to know: for wines particularly sensitive to oxygenation, you can close the container with a carafe stopper , and use a pouring basket for transfer.
Attention ! Some old wines are far too fragile to undergo decanting in a carafe. It is then better to decant them into a tasting glass.
Everything you need to know about the decanter
If carafing requires a lot of vigilance, choosing your carafe also requires your full attention. The criteria will not be the same for aeration or for decantation. If your goal is to leave the deposits at the bottom, you will have to choose:
- The size of the carafe : as a general rule, the carafe allows you to decant a 75 cl bottle;
- The shape of the carafe : the shape of the carafe with a narrow neck limits contact between the wine and the air. Conversely, the wider the body, the greater the contact surface between the air and the wine;
- The material of the wine carafe : you can choose a magnificent crystal carafe, but if your budget does not allow it, or you are clumsy, the best solution is to opt for a glass carafe;
- The aesthetics of the carafe : for elegant service, the wine carafe can also be chosen according to its design.
Serving a wine according to the rules of the art is not such a simple exercise. And if you want to release all the aromatic potential and free the wine from its small particles, the decanting stage is essential. You are now trained to decant your best wines and enhance them.