Are you one of those people who has several wine decanters at home but never uses them either because you’re not sure what to do with it, or you think, ‘Why bother?” when you can simply drink (okay, guzzle) the wine straight from the bottle?
We’re here to let you know that there are real reasons to why you should decant wine and when you should decant wine. The ‘why’ and the ‘when’ are both related to flavor and getting the most out of the wine. So, let’s talk about them!
Just in case, let’s define what a wine decanter is. It is a sultry, curvy, glass or crystal vessel. Some decanters are so gorgeous; they have a presence. Sort of like silver screen star Barbara Stanwyck standing at a fireplace in a fine vintage dress or Harry Belafonte walking into a room in a dapper, tailored suit. Your eyes are just drawn to the beauty of it! What is more enticing than sitting at dinner table with a sparkling, crystal decanter full of red wine as its centerpiece? Yes, please!
Traditionally, decanting is a process meant to separate red wine from the natural sediment that collects in the bottom of the bottle. Sediment can be a little bitter and a bit distracting to the wine enjoyment experience. With decanting, the idea is that you pour your wine slowly from the bottle and into the decanter. The sediment stays in the bottle and the delicious wine swirls into the decanter.
The second reason for decanting wine is related to flavor. Some wines need a little air to make them taste better. Think of it like opening the windows in your home on a nice spring day; you open your home to let in the fresh and (hopefully) delightful aromas of budding flowers, trees and nature to freshen your environment. When opening a new bottle of wine, you may discover it smells of sulfur or something odd. It’s okay; this just means the wine needs a little oxygen to get it going. Or, you may taste the wine and it seems a little dull; oxygen will liven it up and make it dance as it was meant to do! Decanting will make all your troubles go away.
While the concept to why we decant wine is fairly straightforward, the reasons behind the why can get pretty complex. You can learn more about the complexities here.
For our purposes, let’s keep things simple so that you start using your decanter.
- For flavor and freshness.
What to decant:
- Decant red wine (rosés and whites ‘generally’ do not need to be decanted).
- Older wine for 15-30 min. Younger wine for 30 min – 1 hour. Here’s a fun way to think about it: the older you are, the more you know, right? You don’t need much to make you fabulous because you already are! Older wine is kinda already fabulous. So, just a little touch of oxygen makes older wines open up quickly. When we’re younger, we think we know everything; we are full of life and potential and ready to goooo. But, sometimes we need to pull back the reigns for a bit and settle to allow our greatness to fully manifest. So, younger wines need a little time to calm down before they are ready for prime time.
When to decant:
- Based on the above criteria, decant just as you’re getting ready serve a meal, or before guests are to arrive. If you’re having a night in, decant when you throw your popcorn in the microwave or a few minutes before you settle down to binge your favorite show like Only Murders in the Building, Dark Winds, Reservation Dogs or back-to-back Barbara noir films like Double Indemnity (1944) or Sorry, Wrong Number (1948).
How to decant:
- Tip the decanter (if it’s not already at an angle) and pour your wine slowly into it. By the way, if you have guests, keep the empty bottle nearby so they can see what they are drinking.
- Note: While decanters can be beautiful in form and function, you can still decant without a decanter. You can use your wine glass to simulate the process. If you’re goal is to remove sediment, you can simply pour your wine very slowly to avoid sediment getting in the glass (and/or use a fine strainer or cheese cloth if you have one). If your goal is to get rid of an unpleasant aroma because your wine needs a little oxygen to make it right, simply swirl the wine in the glass for awhile and let it sit. Mother nature will do the rest.
One thing to remember, too much air can be bad for wine, and we spoke about that here. So be cautious with decanting, but don’t worry about it too much. Just drink faster. (We’re kidding. Don’t do that.)
Oh, by the way:
Looking for some wines to decant?
- Lo-Fi Wines (CA): https://lofi-wines.com/
- Loring Wine (CA): https://www.loringwinecompany.com/home.php
Local to Arizona:
- Chateau Tumbleweed: https://www.chateautumbleweed.com/
- Page Spring Cellars: https://pagespringscellars.com/