As I point out in the following article on settling and decanting, I am not clung to the idea of decanting old wines. However, let’s explore this topic together to shed light onto why this is the case.
Decanting is the act of separating the solid portion of wine lying in the bottom of the bottle from the liquid portion of wine. The immediate consequence for wine is a sudden and violent oxygenation. When we are in the presence of a bottle aged 20 years or more, it needs calm and serenity in order to provide you with excellent conditions. The rush involved with decanting is therefore not an inevitable solution, far from it.
However, decanting is conducive to settling wines with strong tannins and a rather compact profile. These tannins melt smoothly after decanting, even on a vintage with a little change. However, few older vintages offer nowadays still have marked tannins, especially and even larger amounts. Only the greatest succeed, such as 1989, 1990 and 1982. Concerning 1945 and 1961, decanting does not seem a solution.
Is Decanting Old Wine Dangerous?
The wine must be provided with a very solid framework to support the act of decanting. If you decant a wine with light aromas and textures, the soul will vanish very quickly. Leaving an aqueous, fluid feel to the drink, and more of a feeling of frustration than pleasure for the wine taster.
Which Wines Should You Decant?
A great wine with a great vintage will benefit from being decanted if, indeed, a heavy deposit is present in the bottom of bottle. Bordeaux, wines of the Rhone Valley, old Cahors, and Madiran with rich vintages and concentrates. Choose vintages such as the trilogy of 1988, 1989 and 1990, or like unforgettable 1982, 1961 and 1945.
Never forget, a wine needs tenderness to thrive. Open the bottle a few hours in advance, let the wine adjust to the room (preferably in a cellar) at 14 C (57 F). By doing this you will find quite naturally, the difference in the wine when it is offered patience and respect. The bottle becomes more refined and tasty having preserved its structure while not losing its strength.
In sum, the settling of old wines is justified in the case of wines with great aging potential. These wines should be powerful, opulent, with a real deposit. If the latter appears, then it is capable of supporting decanting. Remember, especially preferred wines for decanting are high in tannins! Suffice to say, decanting will not be the prerogative of all wines.
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