Our expert’s advice

Maxime Bertin

Decanting – Transfer to decanter/carafe

Dear wine lovers,

First of all, is there a difference?

Decanting the wine is a delicate task that entails separating the wine from its sediment by pouring it into a decanter. This is because a certain amount of sediment may form naturally over a period of time.

This natural sediment can frequently be found in older wines, or younger wines that are either partially filtered or completely unfiltered. Crystals may also be found at the bottom of bottles – the result of an accumulation of tartaric acid in crystalline form. This is seen more clearly in white wines, though it has no impact on the taste of the wine.

Transferring the wine to a decanter or carafe also serves to aerate the wine by ensuring it comes into contact with a large quantity of air. This process helps the wine 'open up', allowing it to reveal its aromas and enhancing the taste in just a few minutes. Younger wines will benefit from a dynamic decanting procedure.

 

Why do it?

There is no obligation to carry out either process.

After opening a bottle of wine, the first thing to do is taste it to ascertain whether it needs to be decanted. In my experience, wine drinkers fall into two camps: those in favour and those against.

Equally, if you are able to open your bottles of wine in good time, this will only do the wine good.

It is a good idea to transfer a young wine to a decanter or carafe so that it can reveal all of its nuances; likewise a wine that has been shut away for a period of time. However, the same procedures are not advisable for very old, fragile wines, as they tend to deteriorate on contact with the air. High-quality champagnes will also open up once exposed to the air.

Decanting is a procedure that ought not to be rushed. Since wines become fragile with time, they should be handled carefully and cautiously to avoid exacerbating this effect, though oxygen will do this naturally. The purpose of decanting wine is to minimise any disturbance when it is drunk. Ideally, you should place a candle beneath the bottle when the wine is poured into the decanter so that the movement of the sediment is more visible and it is not allowed to mix into the wine.

 

Which types of decanters/carafes should be used?

To aerate a young wine, choose a decanter with the widest possible base and a widely flared neck. This will encourage as much oxygen as possible to enter and come into contact with the largest possible surface area. The reverse applies to decanting an aged wine: the objective is to bring as little oxygen as possible into contact with the extra-special beverage that you wish to separate from the various types of sediment gathered over time. Therefore, choose a narrow decanter in this case.

We hope that having read the above, you might now wish to open a few bottles from your own cellar – decanting the wine if need be.

 

Maxime Bertin

Berthaudin Expert

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