One of the most uncertain things for wine professional, restaurateurs or wine lovers is whether or not decanting wine is necessary. Will decanting release the aromatic components of the wine or will it increase the deterioration or oxidation process? I want to present a few thoughts about decanting from Emile Peynaud, “the man” (Director and Professor of Bordeaux University Center of Oenology). Professor Peynaud conducted numerous research studies on decanting to rationalize its purpose in terms of the science of Oenology.
Decanting is a very old process of separating the clean wine from the sediment or particle deposits that have formed in the bottle. Most wines today are fined or filtered in some way before they even reach the bottle, making decanting obsolete. Peynaud’s 1st Rule of decanting is that only bottles which have deposits need to be decanted. Deposits or particles in suspension can be felt by the tongue, thus changing the wine’s structure, lessening the aroma and making red wine bitter. Peynaud’s 2nd Rule is if decanting is necessary, it should be done at the last moment just before serving, never in advance. Older wines are usually more delicate and sensitive than younger wines so limiting their exposure to oxygen is beneficial. Finally, the 3rd Rule is only wines suffering from some fault (like reduction) should be decanted allowing the wine to have some contact with air to correct the problem. There are a million exceptions to these decanting rules. They may be based on science, personal preference or the varietal itself. What are your rules for decanting?
Annette Solomon, CS