Why do we decant wines?
Decanting: the union between Air and Wine.
The symbiosis between wine and air has always been observed with amazement and charm since ancient times. Understanding how air favors both decay and net improvement of the final product can be observed in a decanter.
Through the process of decanting, the wine is exposed to a high quantity of air in a short time with the aim of smoothing out the 'imperfections' that could be present at the time of opening. These imperfections are not real imperfections, despite the characteristics present in most wines when opening which sometimes result in unpleasant smells arising from the bottle, or in a particularly aggressive tannin at first glance. In any case, the so-called 'imperfections' are temporary, destined to disappear shortly after opening the bottle. Thanks to the decanting, we can speed up this process, helping the wine to reach its optimal shape in less time.
Among the wines that benefit most from decanting we find young and full-bodied wines, and wines of medium/old vintage. Take for example the Apulian primitivo, a grape variety typical of the southern Italian territory and known internationally as Zinfandel. The primitivo is characterized by a robust body which at first glance is closed and imposing, therefore perfect for decanting. Once decanted, the wine will be softer and more balanced, reducing the tannic effect and integrating its flavors. The final experience will be much more pleasant, almost transcendental, because decanting a wine of this type allows us to appreciate it in its dynamism and to savor its evolution, step by step. Personally, I suggest decanting any young and robust wine starting from Australian and American cabernet sauvignon, to Spanish priorates, and Bordeaux-style wines such as French bordeaux and Tuscan bolgheri.
The other category of wines that we will analyze are medium/old vintage wines. This type of wine represents all those wines that have been aged from 5 to 30 years, therefore at a very different evolutionary stage compared to new wines. When a wine is aged, the structure and organoleptic composition of the product changes drastically resulting in more complex wines, integrated, and often more complete in every respect. This evolution occurs thanks to a long and slow contact between the wine and the oxygen particles present in part inside the bottle, or allowed to pass inside thanks to the spongy capacity of the cork stopper. The wine will show notes of dried fruit instead of ripe fruit, while the more floral expressions will be covered by earthy flavors such as truffle and musk. The tannin will now be sweet and well incorporated with the rest of the wine; why should you decant a wine that has already reached this evolutionary stage?
An old vintage wine, albeit at its evolutionary peak, can be extremely closed when opened, even more than a young wine. Considering the aging times in the bottle, there can be multiple reasons as to why this happens: it is possible that the cork is damaged, releasing cork particles inside the wine, or that it loosens, favoring the passage of air inside the bottle and oxidation of the product. Whatever the reason, an old vintage wine can often deceive the less experienced, showing not only unpleasant smells at first glance, but also unusual reflections in the color of the wine that can remember the rust or even the orange typical of the brick. All of this can be improved by slightly decanting the wine, albeit in small quantities. I speak of small quantities precisely,
My advice is: open the bottle, smell the contents; observe the color; savor the wine and write down your first impressions; if it doesn't convince you, decant half a bottle and put the rest aside. Thirty minutes later, taste the decanted wine. Has it improved? If it is, you will have just experienced the best feeling that an oenophile can experience in his life.