by Etty Lewensztain, Wine Expert for the Menuism Wine Blog
Decanters may seem like superfluous (not to mention pricey) wine accessories that are more about pomp and ceremony than actual utility, but decanters do, in fact, serve a technical purpose that can alter a wine considerably and make your wine drinking experience more enjoyable.
Besides their ability to instantly dress up your table, decanters are useful when you're popping the cork on a wine that is very young and tannic, or alternatively, a wine from an older vintage that has a good amount of age on it and has deposited a lot of sediment. Decanting also oxygenates a wine, letting it bloom, so to speak, and allowing its aromas and flavors to emerge and develop to their fullest expression.
Red wines that are typically high in tannin and that can benefit from some time spent in a decanter include Cabernet Sauvignons or Cabernet-based Bordeaux-style blends, Syrahs, Malbecs, Petite Sirahs, Zinfandels, Nebbiolo-based wines like Barolo or Barbaresco, and Sangiovese-based wines like Brunello di Montalcino.
Decanting an aged wine and passing it through a mesh funnel or filter that gets placed at the opening of the decanter can help separate the gritty sediment from the wine so that it doesn't end up in your glass. Sommeliers at formal restaurants often place a small candle under the bottle while they pour an aged wine into a decanter to illuminate the glass bottle and discern where exactly the sediment lies in the bottle, making sure it doesn't make its way into the decanter.
Etty Lewensztain is the owner of Plonk Wine Merchants, an online shop focused on small-production, artisanal and altogether great cheap wine. The food- and wine-obsessed Los Angeles native cut her teeth in the wine biz running a marketing campaign to promote Chilean wine in the U.S., and is certified by the esteemed Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and the American Sommelier Association. Plonk Wine Merchants specializes in hidden gems from around the globe and every bottle in the store is priced below $30. Follow Plonk Wine Merchants on Twitter @PlonkOnline.
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