Decant for the Holidays

Uncorking that coveted bottle at a holiday feast? Do the wine justice and decant it.

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Decanting is an essential step when serving an old bottle of wine—anything at least 7 years old. Put simply, decanting is pouring the wine from the bottle into another vessel, then serving it from that vessel into each person’s glass. This isn’t just for show—it ensures the wine smells and tastes its best.

A wide-bottom decanter, with a large surface area, exposes more of the wine to oxygen—which helps open up the wine’s aromas and flavors. Also, wines develop astringent-tasting grains of sediment as they age, so decanting allows you to separate them from the wine. Otherwise, those inky-red grains will wind up in your dinner guests’ teeth.

Decanting needn’t break the bank, by the way. Any glass decanter costing $10 to $20 will serve the purpose—and guarantee the tastiest holiday toast. Just follow these easy decanting steps:

1. Uncork early
A good amount of oxygen-exposure time is an hour. Uncorking and decanting a bottle before everyone sits at the table also gives you time to focus on serving the food.

2. Sneak a sip
Pour a small bit of the wine into a glass and taste it. If you don’t smell and taste much of anything, that’s a sure sign that decanting is necessary.

3. Let there be light
Use a candle or your phone’s flashlight underneath the bottle so you can illuminate the wine flowing out of it. Pour slowly into the decanter, and stop once you start to see the sediment—which should stay behind in the bottle.

4. Sneak another sip
Pour yourself another small sip, as the wine’s aromas and flavors should already be more obvious.

5. Enjoy
Place the decanter and empty bottle on the table, side by side, so everyone knows what they’re drinking.

Side note…
Have a special bottle, such as a Bordeaux or California Cabernet, that’s only a couple of years old? Decant it, too—oxygen will release the wine’s aromas and flavors, essentially accelerating the wine’s aging. The wine shouldn’t have developed sediment yet, however, so skip steps 3 and 4.

 

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