How many of you own decanters but don’t know what to do with them? I love this picture (thanks for taking it for me Martin!) because it shows you exactly why you need to decant some aged red wines.
See that sludgy stuff up near the neck of the bottle? That’s sediment. Sediment forms as highly tannic (read dry) wine ages. It is the grainy deposit that is the result of the separation of bitartrates (acids), tannins and colour pigments that occurs as wines age.
Although sediment is not a bad thing to find in a wine bottle (it can indicate that a wine is well enough aged to be ready to drink), you don’t want to drink the sediment itself. So, here’s how to decant a wine so that you get just the good stuff in your glass:
1. If a wine has been laying on its side in a wine rack, it’s best to stand it up for several hours or overnight to let the sediment sink to the bottom.
2. Uncork the bottle gently so that you don’t disturb the sediment and redistribute it throughout the wine.
3. Light a candle or position a strong light behind the wine bottle. Set a clean, dry decanter or pitcher next to the bottle.
4. Gently and slowly pour the wine into the decanter keeping an eye on the light shining through the bottle to ensure that you are pouring only liquid into the decanter (the light will shine through the wine but not as well through the sediment).
5. As you get closer to the sediment, slow down your pouring to ensure the sediment doesn’t flow into the decanter.
6. If any sediment does make it into the decanter, let it stand for a few minutes and settle to the bottom.
Besides sediment there’s another common reason to decant red wine. “Tight” wines (the ones that make you pucker and crave a glass of water) can sometimes benefit from being decanted since the process of transferring the wine from one container to another can aerate the wine so that it goes down more smoothly.