To Decant or Not To Decant

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Decanting for sediment.

This has been the primary reason for decanting over the course of the centuries, as many older wines aren't filtered like their modern day counterparts. No filter = residue at the bottom of the bottle = eventually the bottom of your glass = unpleasant shock in the form of a mouthful of grit. No fun.

The process means leaving a bottle standing upright for a number of hours/days to allow all the sediment to accumulate at the bottom of the bottle, then carefully pouring the wine so that you leave all of the sediment in the bottle (and ideally all the wine in the decanter). Some say that it's ok to assist the process by dumping the wine through cheesecloth, but I wouldn't encourage it - small particles will still make it through and the cheesecloth may impart something to your spendy bottle.

So, what bottles would you decant for sediment? I would decant using this method for any bottle of red wine over 10 years old, as the wine may have had time to accumulate sediment. Be aware, as wines age they also become more delicate - if you're opening a bottle that's 20+ years old, you may just want to pour directly from the bottle to the glass after leaving the bottle upright for a day or two.

How do I decant without dumping all the grit in the decanter as well? Your best bet is to get a small flashlight and shine it through the wine - you'll be able to see where the sediment is and stop pouring before you reach it. Have a friend help out so you're not trying to pour and hold the flashlight and not break the decanter all by yourself.

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Brian Reeder
Contact: Brian Reeder