Your 5 Minute Guide To Decanting Wine

Your 5 Minute Guide To Decanting Wine

Your 5 Minute Guide To Decanting Wine

You might think it’s something reserved for expensive, old bottles served in top notch restaurants, but decanting is a handy little trick that can help get the best out of a bottle of wine at home, regardless of its price.

Why decant?

The first reason is to pour aged red wines off the sediment that has naturally formed over time in bottle. The sediment is not harmful, but it’s also not particularly pleasant to get a mouthful of. 

The second reason we find more applicable to our everyday drinking. Decanting can help a wine open up. The aeration wakes up dormant aromatics and flavours, and softens the tannins of red wine. This is applicable to both young wines to bring them along a bit, and to older wines that have closed up after time in bottle. 

What should I decant?

Wines can benefit from decanting regardless of their price. There are no rules, but here’s how we roll -

  • We decant full bodied red wines that are over about 8 to 10 years old, to remove sediment.
  • We decant full bodied reds that taste a bit chunky or hard in tannin - often varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Mourvedre/Monastrell, Tempranillo and Sangiovese. 
  • We decant lighter reds, like Pinot Noir, when the flavours seem a bit closed, or fruit aromatics seem muted.
  • We almost always decant Nebbiolo.
  • We decant white wines too, usually Chardonnay when it’s young to help it mellow and broaden.

What shouldn’t I decant?

  • Really old wine (over 20 years or so) can be fragile, so we’re hesitant to decant them. We make the call based on tasting them first.
  • Bold and aromatic white wines usually speak for themselves so don’t need it - Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc for example.

How do I decant a wine?

For wines without sediment, it’s as simple as not spilling it. Fuller, robust reds will benefit from a good swirl once in the decanter.

For older wines with sediment, stand the bottle up for a day before you want to drink it. Move it carefully when you need to. You’ll want a light under the bottle as you pour, so that you can see the sediment moving up the bottle (the torch on your phone is perfect). Pour slowly, and once you can see the sediment at the neck of the bottle, the job is done.

How long should I leave the wine in the decanter?

The very act of decanting brings aeration to the wine so has a benefit. Decant lighter wines for half an hour or so, and fuller, tannic wines for a couple of hours. During this time, store it out of sunlight, and cover it with a tea towel if fruit flies are about. You may want to pour the wine back into the bottle to serve it to your mates.

What if I don’t own a decanter?

There’s no end of expensive, elaborate decanters out there, but all you really need is a clean vessel with a spout that’s made from an inert material like glass. Keep in mind, the wider the surface area of this vessel, the more air the wine will get. In the past we’ve used kitchen measuring jugs and water jugs. See what’s in your pantry.

Finally, decanting is a personal preference. Some wine professionals don’t like to decant at all, and would prefer the wine to evolve slowly in the glass. But we find it can help get the best out of a bottle sooner.

If you’re in doubt about whether you should decant a particular wine or not, don’t hesitate to get in touch!