Q: I was given a bottle of 1986 Château Cheval-Blanc as a birthday gift. Being that this will be the first time I drink an older wine, I would like to treat this bottle right to get the most out of the experience. There is a bit of sediment on the bottom, so I plan on decanting. How soon should we drink it after decanting? --Claudio
A: The 1986 Château Cheval-Blanc is not a wine to hold for the long term, so the primary purpose in decanting is to remove the sediment, not to let the wine breathe. I would decant this wine no more than 20 minutes prior to serving. Be sure to stand the bottle upright for 24 hours prior to intended use. Place a funnel over the decanter to facilitate pouring. Hold a bright light source (a candle, or better still a flashlight) under the neck so that you can clearly see the passage of the sediment from the bottom of the bottle to the neck. Stop pouring when the sediment reaches the neck of the bottle. (Usually an inch or so of cloudy wine will remain in the bottle.) While I don't think the '86 Cheval-Blanc is going to improve over time, you probably have several years to find the right occasion to serve it before it begins to decline.
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