Wine 101 - Dd is for Decanting
To decant... or not to decant...
That is often the question:
Whether 'tis nobler to suffer the woes
Of aged wines so rife with sentiment; or
To pour the crusty juice from its vessel, its home
Into another to clear the wine of sediment...
Well it isn't exactly Shakespeare, but it does present two interesting topics for exploration: What is the difference between DECANTING and AERATING? And why are they important?
The decision to decant a wine is purely personal, of course. But if you've ever opened an aged wine, say an old cabernet cauvignon that you've been saving... Well, when you remove it from the cellar - or from the back of a closet if you're a city dweller - you may notice a proliferation of what looks like dark crust on the inside of the bottle. That is sediment. Bits of particles that have separated over time. So if you don't want those bits to end up between your teeth or stuck to your tongue when you taste, you can ever-so-gently pour the juice into a decanter for serving and temporary storage.
Aerating, on the other hand, is the process of adding air to an otherwise "tight" wine to allow it to soften and open up a bit. Particularly useful for softening structured, tannic, big wines such as cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot and most big Italian reds, it is not a recommended practice for delicate older wines such as aged Burgundian pinot noir.
There are a number of methods and tools for aerating wine. If you are enjoying a glass alone, you may not want to aerate the entire bottle. In that case, I would grab the best tasting glass you own and pour an ounce or two into the glass and let it sit for a few minutes. If you're sharing with a large group, you have a number of options. You can gently pour the entire bottle into a decanter made especially for aerating or you can use a bottle top aerator which is just a tool that affixes to the top of a wine bottle (or sometimes into the neck of a decanter) that provides more air exposure for the wine.
Of course these two terms are not mutually exclusive. You may need to remove sediment and aerate. Rest assured, there are accessories that cover all the bases. Here are some of our favorites:
Selection Decanting Pourer and Aerator $20
Attaches to bottle, oxygenates wine during pouring
Magnifico Decanter with Punt $25
Inexpensive, elegant design and diswasher safe
Bormioli Esperienze Decanter $35
Made from lead-free crystal, decanter with concentric rings that provide aeration
Vivid Wine Decanter & Aerating Funnel Set $70
Lead-free crystal, easy to pour, includes funnel to filter sediment
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Posted by Noël Wallace at September 15, 2008 9:00 AM