Wine Basics: How to Decant Wine and Wine Sediment

I know for many of my current readers this is common sense, but I’ve had a rash of decanting questions lately, so I thought I’d give a quick little informational.

How do you decant wine?
-Pour the entire bottle of wine into a decanter or carafe.
-Place an aerator in the mouth of the bottle or one that sits on top of the decanter, then pour.

If using an aerator, simply pour right into the glass or decanter (using an aerator can speed up decanting time).  Aerators are good for quick breathing of the wine.  Using an aerator is not exactly the same as letting the wine breathe over time, but we don’t all want to wait an hour.

How do you decant wine for sediment?

-Use an aerator that has a filter to pour out the wine.

-Place cheesecloth or an actual wine filter over the mouth of the decanter to catch the sediment.

-The classic method would be holding a candle under the bottle near the neck, pour slowly, watch for sediment at the top of the neck, then stop once you see it.

I personally think the classic method is outdated. I also don’t like it because you will wine left in the bottle that you can’t drink.  Fine dining restaurants are usually sticklers for using this method, but how can I as a Sommelier justify to someone spending $500.00 or more on a bottle and not getting to drink the whole thing?

What is Wine Sediment?
When wine is fermented, winemakers sometimes leave some leftovers from the pressed grapes and/or yeasts all the way through the aging process.  Most wine is filtered, but some winemakers don’t completely filter the final product; they believe it adds to the quality of wine as it continues to age.

Is Wine Sediment dangerous or bad for you?  Absolutely not!

Many people are unfamiliar with sediment in wine and think something is wrong when they find it; it’s harmless, but can have a bitter flavor and noticeable texture.  Sediment in wine kind of looks like coffee grounds or dirt.

Which Wines have Sediment? (this list CAN have sediment, but doesn’t always)

  • High-end Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlots and Blends from Napa Valley or Sonoma
  • Bordeaux Blends
  • Burgundy(Premier Cru/Grand Cru)
  • Chateauneuf Du Pape
  • Syrah from Northern Rhone
  • Barolo
  • Barbaresco
  • Italian Super Tuscans
  • Amarone
  • Brunello Di Montalcino

Which wines don’t need decanting?
Sparkling Wine, Light bodied fruity red wines, White wine and Rose.  Now, white wine generally does not throw sediment, but white wine can have crystals which are tasteless and harmless.  The crystals in white wine are just result of the winemaking process.

Which wines need decanting?
Medium to Full-bodied reds, wines with medium to high tannin, complex wines (wine with many aromas and flavors), rich red wines and wines more than three years old.

Does White Wine need decanting?
White wine does not need decanting, but there are exceptions.  White wine does benefit from breathing, just not as long as red wines.  As long as the white wine is being chilled, you should leave the cork off to allow the wine to breath; White wine opens up just as reds.

Yours Truly,
-The Modern Somm

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