My loyal readers (read: mom) will know that from time to time, I enjoy a glass of port. As a final conclusion to my series on introducing various styles of port (as well as some of the more baffling traditions that go along with it), I present a short explanation detailing how to properly decant a bottle of vintage port.
The first question you have to answer is, “Does my bottle of port need to be decanted?” If it is a bottle of vintage port (which, as you know from my precious articles, is bottle conditioned), and it has a cork, then the answer is “yes.” Decanting for vintage ports is needed for two reasons: the most important is that there will be a crust of detritus at the bottom of these wines, and drinking them straight from the bottle would be akin to drinking loose-leaf tea without a strainer. The second, less important reason is that many ports will improve slightly with the aeration that occurs (though this is far less important than it is with many other fine wines).
The actual decanting process is very simple. All you will need (in addition to your bottle) is a decanter, a bottle of cheap ruby port, some muslin or gauze, and a funnel. 30 minutes prior to decanting, stand the bottle upright. This will allow any sediment floating around to collect on the bottom. Wash the decanter with warm water, and then use a small amount of the cheap ruby port (think the stuff that tramps drank in the â€˜30s) to give the decanter a final rinse A few hours before serving, decant the bottle through the muslin-lined funnel into the decanter. If you drink the port too soon after decanting, you will taste off flavors, so it’s important to wait long enough before enjoying it. As a rule of thumb, younger ports need longer to acclimate to the decanter than older ports. If you want to get fancy, you can use a pair of port-tongs to open the bottle, but a corkscrew works just fine.
That’s all there is to it â€“ enjoy your port!