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Decantation - a wine ritual that you can do at home
If you have heard the word decantation somewhere, but you do not know exactly what it is and why it is happening - the following lines will give you a brief overview.
What is decantation
Decantation is the process of separating wine from sediment and wine crystals formed by aging of the wine. The wine is poured from the bottle into a carafe or other decanter and the rest of the wine, which contains crystals and sediment, is then left in the bottle and not served.
Some people compare decantation to the "Chinese tea ritual". It is often an experience of the wine culture.
Why do we decant
There can be up to three reasons for decantation:
1) separation of sediments - this is the most fundamental reason why we decant. The sediment is contained mainly in red and archival wines, or archival port wines. The sediment is not harmful at all, but the taste and consistency are undesirable for wine connoisseurs.
2) development of aroma and aeration - this means that we let the wine inhale oxygen, oxygen then rids the wine of unwanted gases that were formed in its absence and also softens the taste of tannins, which are a natural part of the wine. The taste of the wine then stands out more and acquires tones which would remain hidden from our senses without decantation.
3) corrects the crushed cork - sometimes it happens. When we open the wine we crush that cork into a bottle (who has not experienced it yet, didn´t open and drink enough bottles of wine :)), decantation in such a case will save the whole situation. Everyone has to admit, that cork between teeth is a bit of a mood killer, so do not hesitate and decant.
What do we decant
We decant young, old, red, white and rosé wines. There are few wines that do not benefit from decantation. However, some wines really need to be decanted to calm down their very distinctive tannins. These are mainly young full red wines, which have a lot of untamed tastes.
Which wines are really worth decanting:
Which wines do not really decant:
Any sparkling wine. Like flat stale Cola, flat stale champagne is simply useless.
Decantation has strict rules, but if we do not have the ambitions of masters and winners of wine competitions, we can perform decantation ourselves at home. The procedure is not complicated.
1) If we decant to remove the sediment, it is important to let the bottle stand still for 2 days, or to lie in a decantation basket.
2) Then we take the wine bottle VERY carefully so that we do not stir up the settled sediment again and we open the wine.
3) After opening, pour a small amount of wine into a carafe and circle it around the carafe to cover its walls. The wine used for covering is not served, but we pour it into another glass. We can do the same with the glasses of the guests to whom we intend to serve the wine.
4) In order to correctly detect the sediment visually, we prepare a candle, which we place under the bottle and gradually pour the wine into a carafe above the flame so that we can see when the sediment is approaching the neck of the bottle.
5) Stop pouring and wait for the sediment to subside.
And this is repeated until the only wine left in the bottle is with sediment that can no longer be separated. The rest of the wine is either poured away or used for cooking.
If we just want to separate the wine from the sediment, let it slide slowly along the walls of the carafe. Such wine can then be served immediately.
But if we want to aerate the wine and let the aroma unfold in the carafe, we can pour it from a greater height and let the wine pour quietly on the walls of the carafe. After pouring, let such wine stand for a while so that the aroma unfolds after aeration.
It is important not only to follow a certain procedure, but also to choose a suitable decanter - a carafe.
There are many decanters that vary in both shape and size. How to know the most suitable for your wine?
Ships or ducks?
Basically we divide the carafes into "Ships carafes", which have a wide bottom of round shapes. These carafes are especially suitable for full and heavy wines that need more space to aerate and develop aroma.
"Duck" or "Cat" type carafes are smaller, narrower and taller. They have less space and therefore the wine has less air supply. It is used for archival and subtle wines that do not have such a dense aroma.
So, that would be all about the basics of decantation.
Ship - left, Duck / Cat - right.
The secret ingredient
Decantation is the royal discipline of every sommelier, but that does not mean you cannot afford doing it at home. Try something new and make your moments special with a glass of fully unfolded red or white wine. The secret ingredient is not only good wine and the right carafe, but also a great mood and pleasant company.