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Decanting Port

To Decant Or Not To Decant, That Is The Question

A lot of people find the whole idea of decanting port nerve-racking. Fortunately, it is a lot easier than you might imagine.

Firstly, not all port needs decanting. Most styles of port wine do not need decanting because they have had the sediment removed before bottling. These ports need simply to be opened and enjoyed.

Vintage ports mature in the bottle and so are bottled unfiltered. Over time as vintage port ages, the natural sediment in the wine will settle in the bottle. This therefore means that vintage port needs to be decanted prior to serving to remove this natural deposit.

As a rule of thumb if a port has a cork stopper it will not need decanting (and should be stored upright). If it has a driven cork (a cork that needs removing with a corkscrew - also see if the cork crumbles) then it is pretty likely it will need decanting.

Vintage Port Glasses

The official port glass to serve port wine in is an ISO tasting glass, but any small wine glass that allows you to swirl the port and savour the aromas before drinking would be suitable. If anyone offers you it in a schooner (and apologies if this is what you use) then this is the wrong glass for port altogether as the outward sloping sides lose the aromas of the wine.

Port Decanters

Do not get hung up about etiquette – think of this as a bit of fun and enjoy the port. If you are having a dinner party and wish to pass the port around then pass the decanter to the left, clockwise around the table until the bottle ends up back in front of the host.

There is an old saying – “Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?” – which you are supposed to drop into the conversation if someone is holding onto the port decanter a tad too long. The origin being that a previous bishop of Norwich was notoriously stingy with his wine.

One way round that is to use a Hoggett decanter – the round bottom ensures no guest can put the decanter anywhere but back with the host and the wooden base. However, we like to ignore the etiquette and just enjoy port for what it is – a great wine that makes any dinner or occasion special.

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