The idea of decanting wine makes it seem complicated and way too fancy. How do you know what to decant? How long do you do it for? The whole idea of it can be very confusing!
But it’s much simpler thank you may think and a lot of it is about preferences!
What is decanting?
Decanting is where you allow the wine to mingle with a large amount of air to accomplish three things: Evaporation, Oxidation, & Sediment Separation.
When a bottle of wine has been aged or cellared, there are many different chemicals changes that happen in a wine during storage. Allowing wine to mingle with oxygen causes evaporation of some of the unpleasant and “sharp” compounds that the wine might have developed.
Also, since the wine has been confined for so long, allowing air to mingle with the wine allows it to open and breathe. It will soften tannins allowing you to taste more of the wine, rather than just the tannins which can, at times, be a little too sharp. This allows the complexity of a wine to really stand out. This little bit of oxidation is key to developing the wine!
In regards to sediment separation, older wines can develop sediment, which can cause a gritty type texture and make it less appealing in texture. Decanting these older wines will help separate this sediment.
How to decant?
There are some really fun ways to decant. I have a couple tools that I have tried. Which I use tends to depend on the number of people I plan on sharing the bottle.
Small Aerators are super handy and can give a wine a quick aeration. There are ones that you can stick into the end of bottle, ones you can hold above your glass and pour into, or even ones that have a built in stand!
Here are a couple examples of ones that I have in my personal collection.
Perfect for when I am only having a glass or two
Aren’t as breakable as a large decanter
Incredibly easy to use
They are super quick
They vary on degrees to which they aerate the wine
They aren’t as gorgeous as having a beautiful decanter sitting out
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There are so many gorgeous decanters out there. They make a gorgeous piece of art at a party when set out on the table.
Here are two that are in my personal collection.
They allow for wine to be aerated evenly
They allow for a larger amount of wine to be aerated
They can be hard to clean
It takes time to full open up the wine
They are breakable
Dumping is simply the process of dumping a bottle of wine from one large glass, pitcher, or vase into another a couple of times and then into the stemware.
Not an appealing presentation
Can over aerate a wine
When & what should you decant?
Red Wines – The basic consensus is that the bolder the wine, the more time it should have to decant. This would be wines like Malbec, Shiraz/Syrah, Cabernets, and such.
White Wines – Some people say that white wines doesn’t need any decanting and that it can dilute the bright flavors that we tend to associate with whites. Others say that it makes whites more complex and mellows the harshness that white wines can have.
Sparkling Wines – Never decant. That is a universal agreed upon fact with decanting.
Decanting wine is still a much debated practice with wine professionals. That’s why it’s all about preferences. Try both! Straight from the bottle to your glass or with a little air!
Quick Decanting Tips
If you open a glass of wine and it isn’t quite developed enough and tastes muted, try using a small aerator and pouring just a small amount and see if it improves the bottle more to your liking. If the initial taste of the wine appeals to you, drink it the way it is and skip the decanting! It’s about what you like!
Decanting is basically a wait and see kind of game.
The best advice that I can give you, especially if you are new to decanting, is to start small and take your time, and do it with a couple of friends to debate what each of you like. Pour it into a decanter and pour a small glass every 30 minutes. Take your time and explore when you feel the wine is at it’s prime. Do this a couple times with a couple different wines and your palette will really start to develop!
Again, it’s all about preference. Find what you like!
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