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Everything You Need to Know About Decanting

Urvashi Deshpande on April 24, 2022
What is decanting?
Decanting wine is essentially the process of pouring (decanting) the contents from one container (typically a bottle) into another container (typically a decanter). 
 
Why do we decant?
Decanting is essential for older vintage port wines or aged Bordeaux – wines that throw off a lot of sediment as they age. It separates the wine from the sediment, which not only would not look nice in your glass but would also add an astringent taste to the wine. Slowly and carefully decanting the wine ensures that the sediment stays in the bottle and you get a nice and clear wine in the decanter, and subsequently in your glass 🥂.

 

When we decant a bottle of wine, two things happen. First, slow and careful decanting allows the separation of wine from its sediment, which, if left mixed in with the wine, will impart a very noticeable bitter, astringent flavor. Second, when you pour wine into a decanter, the resulting agitation causes the wine to mix with oxygen, allowing it to develop and come to life at an accelerated pace (this is especially important for younger wine).

 

Decanters can also bring up the temperature of any wine. If the wine bottle you are planning to drink with dinner is too cold because it came right out of the refrigerator, simply rinse the outside of a decanter with warm water until it feels warm to the touch (15 to 20 seconds) and then pour the wine into the decanter. The temperature of the wine will quickly rise by a few degrees, and it will be ready to drink. 
Choosing a decanter
There are so many decanters on the market, that it can be hard to choose which one to buy. A good decanter should have an opening wide enough to easily pour the wine through without fuss or mess. A crystal clear decanter allows you to see the wine at its best. Be sure that your decanter is spotless and free from any musty cupboard aromas. Rinse it with mineral water to remove any odor. And never clean your decanter with detergent, because the shape of a decanter makes it very difficult to get the soapy residue out.  
Which Wines Do You Need to Decant?
Almost all wines can benefit from decanting. The aeration process makes them taste smoother and fruitier. Oxygen exposure is good for younger wines with very strong tannins. Avoid decanting sparkling wines though, especially if you are a fan of the bubbles.  
How to decant
Decanting a young wine (one with no sediment) is easy to decant. Just pour it into the decanter. Let it sit for 20 minutes or so before you serve it, and you will probably notice a dramatic difference in the flavor and smell. 
 
Decanting older wine (wine with sediment) requires a bit more finesse. For starters, the wine has had plenty of time to age on its own, so it doesn't need any artificial boost. You may even ruin it by overexposing it to oxygen before serving. Thus, you should decant older wine immediately before serving, before it begins to change.
 
Practice Decanting
Decanting wines is not as hard as it might look. All you need is a little patience and a light hand. If you do it correctly, you will be able to enjoy your favorite wines at their most aromatic and flavorful.  
What Are the Benefits of Decanting Wine?
Decanting enhances flavor through aeration - Aeration is the process of introducing oxygen to a liquid. This is also called allowing the wine to breathe. Aeration enhances a wine’s flavor by softening the tannins and releasing gases that have developed in the absence of oxygen. 
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