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Decanting

October 29, 2011
Question by: Jeff, Santa Rosa, California

Q:

Should port be decanted, whether Vintage or Tawny? Or aerated?

A:

Hi Jeff.  Only bottle aged ports - namely Vintage and Crusted - need to be decanted.  Because these wines are bottled young and without filtration, they throw a natural, harmless sediment, sometimes referred to as a "crust".  Decanting is the process of gently pouring the wine from the original bottle into a decanter, and is intended to accomplish two things: 

  1. If done carefully and perhaps with the help of a filter, the sediment will be left behind in the original bottle, you can be sure there will be no sediment served in your glass, and
  2. The process of decanting will gently introduce air to the wine, allowing the aromas and flavours to open up.  Generally, if the Port is decanted 2 to 3 hours before serving, it will have had enough exposure to air to accomplish this.  The exception is very old Vintages - if more than 40 years old, decant only 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving.

These are the basics.  If you click on the Enjoying Port tab in the menu bar above, you will see a list of articles - one of which is just about Decanting Vintage Port, which has more detailed instructions about decanting, and more information about why we decant.  

One other tip to tell you whether or not to decant your Port:  look at the cork.  If it is a classic driven cork that is wholly within the neck of the bottle and requires a corkscrew to remove - decant the Port.  If it is a t-stopper cork, no need to decant.  Even with the capsule in place, you can see clearly the ridged, roughly 1/4 inch deep top of a T-stopper sitting atop the neck of the bottle.  Hope this has helped, and you enjoy your Port whether Vintage or Tawny! 



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