While cleaning my nephew’s baby vomit off a priceless, dry-clean-only, absolutely stunning Tahari piece shirt, I was reminded of the importance of gentleness–for more reasons than preventing projectile vomiting. Whether you’re dealing with an a screaming infant, crotchey seniors at church BINGO, whiny hipsters, or red wines, tenderness is sometimes essential.
Gentleness with wines, in my opinion, is the easiest of these to master (since decanting is simpler than child-rearing). When it comes to decanting, I tend to use babies and senior citizens as references for several reasons. Like wines, both need to be handled gently, especially when it comes to changes–from diapers to legalizing gay marriage. Both tend to protest loudly (Don’t get in the way of an AARP meeting carpool…). Both are can be adorable and wonderful additions to one’s life.
Essentially, two types of wine should be decanted (should is the key word here, these wines will not spontaneously combust in the glass or kill you, they just won’t taste or smell as wonderful).
Young reds are like babies–toss ‘em straight out into the world and you’ll get an unpleasant earful. Gentle cuddling (and a healthy dose of deceit) yields giggles and warm fuzzies. Decanting is the equivalent of gently cuddling a red wine before guzzling it down.
Young wines need exposure to air to release their best smells and tastes, which is where decanting comes in. The best way to do this is by slowly pouring the wine into a ridiculous crystal vessel (see pictures for inspiration), and leaving the wine there for 2 to 24 hours, at which point it will have aerated enough to be drinkable.
Senior Citizen wines (Think: Bordeaux or Cabernet that’s more than 5 years old) need to be decanted for a wholly different reason. After years in the bottle, sediment develops in the wine, which is less than delicious (like nursing home smells–not toxic, but certainly unpleasant). In this case, slowly pouring the wine into a decanter, or through a strainer, allows the sediment to separate from the wine, leaving the aged-to-perfection essence to be drunk. (It’s like winning BINGO.)
Fun Facts: Many household items can be used as decanters–Vases, fishbowls, let your imagination run wild.
Beware: It is possible to decant a wine to death–dumping an infantile or senior red into a decanter too quickly could “shock” the wine, making it virtually undrinkable. Gentle, gentle, gentle!