What is the purpose of those beautiful vase-type things that people pour wine into anyways?
Decanting wine is when you pour wine from the bottle into a different container. These containers can be any inert vessel that is glass, crystal, or porcelain. There are two reasons why we decant wine. The first reason is to aerate the wine, and the second reason is to separate the wine from sediment in the bottle.
When wine is exposed to air, it allows the aromas to open up. We all know that an important part of tasting wine is smelling the complex aromas that are present in your glass. By pouring wine into a different vessel, it allows more oxygen to reach the wine, it opens up fruit aromas, and it can tone down sharp tannins. Altogether, this essentially creates a speedy-aging process for wine.
Almost all reds can be decanted. Especially if it’s a wine that has firm tannins and typically has a bite to it, aerating it will help! Although most commonly red wines are decanted, full bodied white wines, orange wines, or champagnes can also benefit from a little aeration.
Reds that most commonly need some decanting are young California Cabernets, Bordeaux Blends, Brunellos, Tempranillo, and Barolos. The list, however, does not stop there!
Before you decant wine, you should always taste it first. After you pour a little into your glass and swirl, smell, and sip. You may discover that the fruit aromas are powerful already and there is no softening needed!
It’s great to test it first, because you do not want to decant the wine if you don’t have to. Once you pour your wine into the decanter, it is much more difficult to get the wine back into the bottle. Once you start to pour it into the decanter, you are also exposing the wine to much more oxygen than if it were in the bottle, so you will definitely want to drink that wine that same night.
As you pour the wine into the decanter, make sure the the wine is touching all sides of the vessel. This will ensure proper aeration is occurring. If we are planning on drinking half of the bottle, I will typically pour half of it into the decanter and cork the rest of the bottle.
The bolder and more tannic the wine, the longer you will want to decant it. Wine Folly does a great job in their book of breaking down the different varietals and how long those wines should typically be decanted. If you know that you drink a certain varietal more often, you can memorize this time frame! Below are a few common varietals that you would typically decant:
In older red wines, sediment can accumulate at the bottom of the bottle. These wines are typically California reds, Bordeaux, Riojas, or Barolos that are older than 10 years. Although the sediment is completely harmless in your wine, when there is a decent amount present, it is better to leave it behind in the bottle, rather than have it in your glass.
Sediment in wine is a byproduct of aging. As the wine sits in the bottle over the years, molecules that have been present in the wine form into gritty sediment and drop to the bottom of the container. Some winemakers also choose to not filter their wine as much because it can add texture and flavor to the wine.
When a wine has sediment in it, it’s important to make sure the wine bottle has been standing straight up for a few hours before you decant it. This is because you will want the sediment to fall to the very bottom of the bottle. When the sediment is all at the bottom, it will be easier to leave it behind when you decant it.
The best way to learn how to decant wine that has sediment is through videos! Here is one of my favorites from youtube.
A good common rule to know, is the bolder the wine, the bigger the bowl.
In certain circumstances, yes! Always? Nope! Use your own discretion for the need to decant wine. It can definitely bring out that flavor and make a younger, bolder wine more enjoyable that’s for sure. Or it can remove the sediment that has formed at the bottom of an old bottle. Either way, it is a great practice to have! Plus, decanters come in all shapes and sizes and can make for a great decor item as well.
What did you learn from this article? Leave me your decanting tips below!