Decanting: What’s the deal?

Decanting: What’s the deal?

photo from Riedel glassware

Ever wonder when you are supposed to use that beautiful decanter on your shelf? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. There are many different opinions about when to decant wine.  Some people advocate decanting only older wines while others see benefits from decanting young reds. I thought this would be a good time to talk about when and how to use your decanter.

There are two main reasons to decant wine. One is to remove the sediment, which is more often found in wines with ten or more years of bottle age and vintage ports. The other is to soften young tannic* wines through aeration. While most wine professionals agree on the necessity of decanting to remove sediment the benefits of aeration are much more controversial.

Want to know how to decant? Here is a review of the process to decant for sediment as well as aeration.  The first tool you will need is a decanter.  If you don’t have a fancy decanter, a glass pitcher or vase can work too.

 The decanting process to remove sediment from older wines goes as follows:

First, stand the bottle upright for a day or more to allow the sediment to settle to the bottom. Next, remove the entire foil capsule at the top of the bottle and uncork. With the bottle in one hand and the decanter in the other, slowly pour the wine into the decanter in a continuous motion. Have a lit candle or flashlight underneath to see the wine as it passes through the neck of the bottle. Once you start seeing large grains of sediment, stop pouring. Finally, pour the wine from the decanter into glasses and enjoy!

The other reason to decant a wine is for aeration. Aerating provides two main benefits when drinking young red wines. First, it softens the harsh tannins of the wine, giving it a smoother, more elegant finish. Second, it unleashes the wine’s aromas and enhances fruit flavors faster than swirling the wine in your glass will do.

The decanting process to aerate young tannic wine goes as follows:

Remove the entire foil capsule at the top of the bottle and uncork.  Next, pour the wine vigorously into the decanter. That’s right glug, glug, glug . . . let sit for a few minutes and then pour into glasses. You can also aerate your wine by swirling it in a broad bowl wine glass or pouring from one glass into another and back.  This will take longer than using a decanter but it is fun to see the evolution of the wine. Try it some time. You’ll see a big difference!

There is, of course, a third reason to decant and that is for the drama! If you’ve ever been present when a bottle of wine is being decanted in a restaurant, it’s difficult not to watch.


Laurie Forster

P.S. Stay tuned for my next posting on wine aerators. Aerators are designed to do what decanters as you pour your wine from the bottle. I’ll post a video showing how my favorite model works!

P.S. Want more great wine tips and my free audio CD with the 7 secrets to flawlessly ordering wine?