VOL 12: DE-MYSTIFYING DECANTING | THE WHAT, WHEN & WHY
“Life speeds up as you get older. So when I have a great wine – a really amazing wine – I feel like the world just stops for a second.”
~ Don Dady, Seven Apart Owner
THE JOURNAL | VOL. 12
The time has come: you’ve decided to treat yourself to a world-class Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that’s been aging in your cellar for years. You’ve prepped a sumptuous meal for your wine pairing and set the table for guests – the whole nine yards. As the moment you’ve been anticipating approaches, you realize there is one thing you didn’t think to ask yourself: what do you do with the actual bottle?
The answer is simple. A surefire way to get the best drinking experience from a fine wine is to decant it before serving.
Watch our video below to learn more:
The Art of Decanting
Decanting is the process of pouring wine out of the bottle and into a glass decanter for it to ‘breathe.’ The wine is then served from the decanter or decanted back into the bottle after some time.
There are two main reasons for doing this:
1) The first is to physically separate the wine from sediment that may have formed naturally during aging. Older vintage red wine contains the most sediment, while young white wines contain the least. Though not harmful, sediment can tend to deaden the vibrant flavor of your wine. No one wants that, especially if you’ve been patiently waiting for years to enjoy your special selection! Decanting wine ensures that the sediment never makes it past the bottom of the bottle.
2) The second reason is to harness the effects of oxygen exposure, releasing certain compounds found within the bottle. A little breathing room goes a long way. Aerating the wine for even 30 minutes profoundly affects our perception of flavor, texture, and aroma by softening astringent tannins in the wine. Decanting wine allows its flavors and aromas that were dormant while bottled to expand and enhance. A simple way to think about wine is that it is a living being in a bottle: it has been hibernating for years, and when finally opened up to the world, it takes time to wake up and fully express itself.
What Wines Need Decanting?
There aren’t many rules for which wines should and should not be decanted. Some varieties will benefit more than others. Particularly young, robust red wines with more intense tannins. High-end red wines drink better after decanting because they most likely will have a more significant amount of sediment build-up due to their extended aging process.
This said, just because a Cabernet Sauvignon can be stored for years, doesn’t mean it has to be. Our Seven Apart Expedition Cabernet Sauvignon is a younger wine that is already drinking beautifully.
Young Cabernet Sauvignons are typically very high in tannins, intense, and can be tight or closed on the nose or palate. This is just the grape variety’s characteristics. That’s why the longer the wine spends in the bottle, the more its tannins will soften. If you’re eager to savor your Cabernet Sauvignon sooner rather than later, it will most definitely benefit from decanting to help soften the tannins and flavors. A well-made Cabernet like our Seven Apart Expedition should be given up to 60-minutes to allow the tannins to mellow out, and to make the ‘sharp’ aromas less detectable. Once open, be sure to elevate your experience with a juicy steak – the combination of tannins in the wine and fat in the steak will be mouthwatering.
If you have a few of the same bottles at home and are hosting some guests, test the same wine with a decanter and without and taste for yourself!
What Kind of Decanter Do I Need?
Choosing the most suitable decanter for the wine you’re drinking is important to get the best result, but it’s up to you how technical you want to get. Full-bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, a Bordeaux blend and Syrah do well in large decanters with a wide base. Medium to light-bodied reds such as Merlot, Grenache, and Pinot Noir need a medium-sized decanter that has been chilled. Many wine glass specialists produce varietal-specific decanters. A great place to start is with the experts like Riedel, Gabriel-Glas, Zalto and Spiegelau.
The only wines that should never be decanted are sparkling wines, like Champagne. These wines thrive most when they have bounce and effervescence. The aeration from decanting reduces the bubbles, much like how a soda goes flat when left out of the fridge for too long.
How Do You Decant Wine?
Although it may appear intimidating, a decanter is a rewarding addition to any bar cart. When done correctly, decanting your wine can elevate the drinking experience remarkably. All it requires is a light hand and a little patience. Here’s how to get the optimal results:
- If your bottle of wine has been stored horizontally in your wine rack, remove it from storage and place it upright for a full day before decanting. This will allow the sediment to settle at the bottom of the bottle.
- Open your special bottle of wine with a corkscrew.
- Start by pour a small amount of wine in your wine glass. This is to make sure your wine isn’t corked! Then pour the content of your glass into the decanter and swirl. This is a handy step as it helps ‘wash’ your decanter, removing any residual alcohol or cleaning detergent from previous use.
- Gently tilt the neck of the wine bottle toward the decanter, watching the angle of the bottle carefully (45 degrees is perfect) to prevent the wine from gushing out and disturbing the sediment.
- Pour the wine into the decanter slowly and steadily while keeping an eye out for any sediment that approaches the opening.
- Stop decanting if you see any sediment approaching the neck of the bottle. Tilt the bottle upright, and then start pouring again.
- Finish pouring the wine, leaving about half an ounce in the bottle with the sediment at the bottom.
One should avoid decanting too long in advance, or else you can risk oxidation. Oxidation in wine is a chemical reaction that occurs when the oxygen in air comes into contact with the alcohol in wine. The result is a wine that is slightly brown, stale, and has a tangy, metallic smell. That’s why decanting wine can be done up to four hours maximum before drinking it, and no less than half an hour before.It’s best to re-cork your wine within 18 hours.
Patience is a Virtue
At Seven Apart, we know that one of the most joyful moments for any wine lover is finally opening up that bottle that you’ve been saving. If you’ve been storing your Seven Apart Cabernet Sauvignon for the right occasion (and we totally understand if you have), then it might need some time to open up.
To enhance your experience, remember that fine wine deserves every bit of attention to detail to heighten the moment. That’s what makes decanting wine such a magical process. It is an integral part of wine drinking and reflects our philosophy that patience is a virtue. In fact, this ritual is one of Seven Apart’s founder Don Dady’s favorite aspects about wine. He says:
“Life speeds up as you get older. So when I have a great wine – a really amazing wine – I feel like the world just stops for a second. You sit there and focus so intensely on the wine, and watch as layers of fruit and complexity unfold. It’s a beautiful process,” he shares.
Through decanting, we can slow down and take a moment to truly appreciate the craft in front of us. No wonder wine tastes all the better for it.