To decant or not to decant, that is the question…
There are two main reasons to decant wine:
- The first is to aerate young or tannic wines. Exposing wine to oxygen basically speeds the process of aging. While the wine is in the bottle in your cellar, small levels of oxygen oxidize the tannins, therefore softening the wine slowly over time. Aerating young wines before drinking them tends to soften the wine and release flavors.
Pour the wine rather quickly and against the side of the decanter, you will see that the wine coats the entire vessel.
- The second reason to decant is to separate wine from the sediment or residue in the bottle – usually needed for older red wines. Pour the wine gently into the decanter, holding the decanter at an angle to avoid splashing. Older red wines do not need aeration like younger wines. Pour slowly until just the sediment is left in the bottle. Professional sommeliers often use a candle to illuminate the residue in the dark bottle, and stop pouring before any sediment leaves the bottle.
The best decanters are designed so a little wine will stay in the bottom of the decanter no matter how hard you try to pour it, trapping any sediment that may have been poured into the decanter.
These are the two main reasons for decanting wine. However, there are beautiful decanters so I often decant wines that really don’t need to be decanted just because it’s fun and a beautiful way to present and serve wines. Guests often want to see the bottle, so I leave the bottle on the table for everyone to see.
How to care for your decanter?
A decanter should only be cleaned with clear water and let air-dry.
If wine stains appear in the bottom of your decanter, you could use an effervescent dental cleaner, and rinse with clear water.
An interesting book on the history of decanters…- Decanters 1760 - 1930 by David Leigh -