If you’ve dined out at fancy restaurants and ordered a bottle of young red wine, chances are the server wouldn’t pour the wine directly into your glass.
They would bring out a decanter, into which the wine is poured and left to breathe for a while. Decanting wine is considered a skill and an art which the average wine drinker may not deem necessary.
However, decanting wine may actually elevate the wine drinking experience. Why should you be decanting your wine, and how exactly do you do it? Read on to find out!
What is decanting?
Decanting wine involves pouring wine from the bottle into a decanter, before serving it up in a wine glass. A decanter itself is a vessel which comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Various decanters have necks that are shaped differently. The most common ones are cornett, swan, duck, and standard necks.
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Why should I decant my wine?
You may not notice, but wines actually still carry some sediment at the bottom of the bottle. This is especially true for red wines. Sediments form as a result of tannins bonding with phenols.
Because of this, some may prefer to get rid of the sediments before drinking. This is where decanting comes into play.
The art of decanting separates the sediment from the wine. You can imagine that wines that have been bottled up for years will need to breathe a little.
Some servers may do this by opening the cork and just letting the wine sit on the table for a while. However, decanting offers more exposure to fresh air.
While the wine sits in the decanter, it also allows for oxygenation, letting the wine breathe a lot more. In this way, the wine’s aroma is also released into the air.
What kinds of wine should I decant?
Not all wines require decanting, although decanting wine in general wouldn’t hurt anyone. It all depends on how long the wine sits in the decanter for.
While oxygenation is good for any wine, letting it breathe for too long may end up ruining the wine. Old wines and bold wines alike can benefit from decanting.
For older wines, decanting will help separate the sediment from the wine, as more sediments will have formed with time. When we say “old” here, we mean any wine five years of age or older.
On the contrary, decanting bold wines is for the purpose of introducing oxygen. Decanting works on these types of wines, as they contain more tannins than the usual kinds of wine.
Oxygenating the wine will help soften up those tannins, decreasing that bitter aftertaste that red wine is usually known for.
White wines, rosé, and sparkling wines don’t normally need to be decanted before serving.
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How to decant wine
Decanting wine may be intimidating at first, but with some time and practice, you’ll learn how to properly do it to really maximize your wine. Here’s a simple step-by-step on how you can decant your own wine.
If you store your wine horizontally, let it sit upright on a flat surface at least 24 hours before decanting.
If your wine is already stored vertically, you can skip this step. The purpose of this is to let all the sediments float to the bottom of the bottle.
When you’re ready to decant, open the bottle and very slowly pour the wine into the neck of the decanter. Tilt the bottle, but keep the base of the bottle low so that the sediment stays at the bottom as much as possible.
Through the wine bottle, pay attention to where the sediment is. If you find that it’s beginning to make its way to the neck, stop pouring and hold the bottle upright to let the sediment settle back down.
Pro tip: don’t pour the entire bottle into the decanter! If you attempt to do this, you risk pouring the sediment into the decanter. Instead, leave a little bit of wine, around half an ounce, in the bottle along with the sediment.
Finally, leave the wine in the decanter before pouring it out into a glass.
How long should wine be left in the decanter?
As aforementioned, being exposed to too much oxygen for too long can cause the wine’s quality to deteriorate. This is why you should be careful not to over-decant.
Below you’ll find a rough guide on how long to decant each type of wine.
1. White wines and rosé
If you need to, decant white wines and rosé for up to 30 minutes. These wines are lighter and don’t require much aeration.
White wines and rosé that need to be decanted are those that have been reduced.
This is caused by being bottled up for too long without oxygenation. Your wine is reduced if it smells like garlic, burnt rubber, or rotten eggs upon opening the cork.
2. Red wines
Decant red wines for anywhere between 20 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the kind of red. Bolder wines will take longer to get rid of some of those tannins.
Full-bodied reds like the Petit Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon will need 1-2 hours of decanting. Medium-bodied reds like Malbec and Merlot will need about 20 minutes to an hour.
Light-bodied reds like Pinot Noir and Zinfandel will only need 20-30 minutes in the decanter.
3. Sparkling wines
Decant sparkling wine only when needed, and only for up to 30 minutes. Exposure to air will end up getting rid of that fizziness from the carbonation, which is the entire point of sparkling wine!
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