Well-developed wine is a wonderful experience for any wine lover; winegrowers, connoisseurs and amateurs alike. But knowing which tools and accessories should be used with which wines is never easy. This week’s Millesima Tips looks at two tools used for vastly different occasions, the decanter and the carafe.
Carafes tend to look like vases, long bodies and small bases. Typically used to store liquids before serving. Carafes are decorative and used to tie together place settings. The liquids that they hold are not necessarily altering or enhancing the flavors of the liquid inside.
Decanting a wine is a process that is used to enhance the characteristics of a wine. Decanter’s come in various shapes and sizes. Their primary function is to hold and serve wine, while allowing it to breathe. They are mostly used for red wines, because the tannins act as a barrier against oxidation. Decanting a white wine risks to destroy its fresh and aromatic characteristics. Many white wines can benefit from decanting, especially oak- matured whites such as white Bordeaux and Chardonnay.
Some red wines have sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Decanting the wine is a process that separates deposit from the wine. Sediment is a byproduct of making wine. After around the 5 year mark, dead yeast cells, bits of grape and tartrates fall from the liquid and collect to the bottom of the bottle.
Decanters are typically flat bottomed with wide bases and tapered necks. Small decanters, that have a large wine to air ratio (70/30 or 80/20), are used for light bodied red wines (Pinot Noir and Beaujolais) and some rose wines. When the decanter has a 50/50 ratio of wine to air, it’s for medium bodied red wines (Merlot, Sangiovese & Grenache). Full-bodied red wines should be decanted in large decanters with a small wine to oxygen ratio because of their strong tannic structures (Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat & Tempranillo).
Decanters can come in many shapes and sizes. We can find decanters in the shape of swans and other birds. Depending on the wine’s characteristics (age, variety & appellation), it should be aerated before serving. Wines that are full-bodied usually take the longest due to their powerful tannins, and can be decanted anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours before serving.
Becoming a decanting pro
Once a wine is decanted, it cannot be undone. Most wines survive for up to half a day after being decanted and should be enjoyed before they are over-oxidized. Over oxidation is the chemical process that turns wine into vinegar. When decanting wine, candles and smartphone lights can be used to see when the sediment reaches the neck of the bottle. A safe rule of thumb is that the more tannic and youthful a wine is, the longer it will need to decant.