Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

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Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

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Decanting Demystified

Decanting is a time-honored wine ritual, but it’s not just for show. When you decant a bottle of wine, two things happen. Slow and careful decanting allows mature wine (typically red wine) to separate from bitter sediment that develops in the aging process. Meanwhile young wines also benefit from decanting, although the aim in not to take the wine off its sediment (as there is rarely any sediment in young wine), but rather to aerate the wine, softening its youthful bite or tannins and coaxing the development of more complex aromas.

Decanting a young wine is as simple as vigorously pouring the wine into a decanter and splashing or swirling as much oxygen as possible into the wine. It’s worth noting, however, that some people believe decanting young wines takes away some of the aroma and character, so we encourage you to experiment for yourself. Decanting older wines requires a bit more finesse.

-If possible, stand the bottle upright for 24 hours or more in advance of decanting to allow the sediment to settle to the bottom. -While slowly and gently pouring the wine out into a decanter, have a flashlight or tea-light candle under the shoulder of the bottle and watch for any sediment moving toward the neck of the bottle. If you are using a candle, be careful not to hold the bottle directly over the candle flame or soot will blacken the bottle and obstruct your view. -Try to pour the bottle once, without setting it down, so the sediment does not get stirred up. Stop pouring when you see the sediment (a thin dark stream) approach the neck of the bottle. If any sediment ends up in your glass, it’s harmless, but has a gritty unpleasant texture. -Consume shortly after decanting. Older wines are fragile and do not fare well with too much exposure to oxygen, which can diminish the aromatic subtleties of the wine.