How To Decant Vintage Port
Do I Need to Decant Vintage Port?
You're unlikely to have opened a bottle of Vintage Port that's only been in the bottle a few years so the answer is yes! There will be a crust or sediment which should be removed. It's a sludgy substance that wouldn't be very attractive in the glass, and contains concentrated deposits from the wine and therefore doesn't taste very appealing.
Preparing to Decant
Decanting Vintage Port or any fine wine is nothing to be afraid of. The bottle should be stood upright for at least 2 hours before decanting, preferably for at least 12 hours. A shorter time allows the heavier sediment particles to fall; a longer time will also allow the fine, sludgy particles to sink. Younger Ports can be decanted well in advance of dinner. However Vintage Ports should be decanted just prior to dinner as the structure of the older wine will begin to break down immediately on oxygen reaching the wine. To decant you need: a corkscrew with a long screw (note pocket knives with corkscrews included are not recommended), a funnel, a decanter, a piece of muslin or other lint free cloth (although I must confess to a clean handkerchief being used on occasion!)
Pulling the Cork
Ensure the corkscrew is in the whole length of the cork. This is because quite often the cork will begin to break up as it is removed. This is especially the case with older ports. If the cork does break up, you may have to make several attempts with the corkscrew to remove what is left. An alternative technique is to use red hot port tongs to remove the top of the bottle. I don't recommend this as it's more for theatre than practicality and can be a tad dangerous.
Pouring into the Decanter
Insert the funnel, lined with a suitable filter material (I use a clean handkerchief), into the decanter. Tilt the decanter and funnel onto a very slight angle, to allow the wine to run down the side of the decanter, rather than splashing directly into the bottom of the decanter. Then pick up the bottle and pour slowly into the funnel. As you near the end of the pour you may see sediment appearing into the funnel. This is the time to stop pouring. It wouldn't be unusual if there was even up to an inch of port still in the bottle. I'd typically use this remainder to add into a gravy - this is very tasty!