Why Decant Wine?

The holidays are the time of year when you break out the good wine — and that often leads to questions about if and when you should decant a wine.

Decanters, while not essential to enjoying wine, are pretty handy tools to have. They can be used for both old and young wines.

So why and when do you decant wine?  Here are some tips:

In old wines (and full bodied younger red wines), decanting allows you to separate the sediment and residue from the wine. If you have a bottle that has been stored on its side, allow it to rest upright for 15 minutes before decanting so the sediment falls to the bottom. As you pour the wine into the decanter keep an eye on the sediment collecting in the bottle so that you don’t pour it into the decanter.

If you’ve stored the bottle in a cool place, decanting enables the wine to raise to a better temperature for drinking. A wine that is served too cold won’t be as flavorful.

Decanting allows the wine to breathe. As the wine has a chance to mix with the air its flavors will be enhanced. For younger wines decanting helps bring out flavors you would get if it were more mature.

After pouring the wine into the decanter allow it to rest at least 15 minutes before pouring into glasses. Just be careful with wines that have peaked in maturity or may be about to peak; once the wine mixes with air it could start deteriorating rapidly so you’ll want to drink it immediately.

A final reason for decanting wine — it looks cool. Decanting is part of the theater when you go to a nice restaurant and it adds a special touch to a get together with friends. Decanting makes any wine a special occasion, whether you’re enjoying take out or serving a less expensive bottle.

One tip when buying a decanter is to think about the cleaning. The twisting and turning decanter looks really nice but it will likely be a pain to clean. If you’re not a fan of careful washing by hand you’ll want to opt for a more simple decanter.

For younger wines aerators are great alternatives to decanters. These are tools that help accelerate the opening up of a wine. As you pour the wine it mixes with air, resulting in a more enhanced bouquet and flavors. Aerators like the Nuance Wine Finer double as pourers and are inserted into the wine bottle. Others like the Vinturi wine aerator are held between the bottle and glass.

image of Riedel “O” Magnum decanter from Riedel’s Flickr page
image of Nuance Wine Finer from WineEnthusiast.com