When (and Why) to Decant Your Wine
Okay, so we have all seen wine be decanted in upscale restaurants or in a tasting room, or even in the home of our really classy friends, but what does decanting do?
The literal act of decanting is pouring the liquid from one vessel to another, usually from the bottle itself to the actual decanter itself. The point is to filter out any sediment that may have settled and to aerate any aromas or flavors that may have dulled, depending on the age of the wine. This really affects red wines, rather than whites, because they tend to contain more sediment which requires decanting.
One of the most common tricks when decanting is to swirl. You probably see this in restaurants when a guest is sampling the wine they’re about to purchase. It’s not just to look fancy- it does serve a purpose- to revive those scents and flavors that have settled. You can do this with your entire decanter full of wine as well (just be careful.)
Pro-tip: Decant all of your wines.
There is hardly a wine out there that couldn’t use with a quick decanting (except the sparkly ones, obviously.)The expensive bottles are meant to be decanted, especially the deep reds like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah, and the cheap bottles can only benefit from a little oxygen. White wines don’t necessarily need to be decanted but it really can’t hurt. However, if it is a high-quality bottle, don’t decant too early- pour just before serving your guests! Too much oxygen can be detrimental to an aged wine.
Okay so here’s the rundown when you’re decanting that bottle:
- Leave the bottle sitting upright for a few hours before pouring. This ensures that all the sediment has slid to the bottom of the bottle, and you can avoid pouring it out into the decanter.
- Make sure your decanting vessel is nice and clean, and that you have a direct light source.
- Begin to pour slowly, so you can see the liquid as it comes out of the bottle. You want to make sure to stop before all the settled sediment actually pours into your decanter- that would defeat this entire purpose!
The decanted wine (unless it’s a really old bottle) can sit for a couple hours before serving, as that extra time with the air will help to round out the flavors within. Essentially what you’re doing when you decant is expose the wine to oxygen, which is what happens when a wine is cellared for many years. The chemical reaction that happens with wine and air is what creates those earthy, luscious flavors that we love so much in a bottle of vino.
You don’t have to go overboard with the decanter. A simple glass one is perfect, they sell them everywhere. Try decanting for different lengths of time the next time you open a bottle and see how it changes the flavor of what you’re drinking, especially if you are fond of the same bottle each time.