Decanting Wine – Why and When You Should Do It

Wine experts have been arguing about the viability of wine decantation for ages. Some sommeliers consider it a simply fancy ritual, others think that decanting wine is more than that and can improve wine’s taste and fragrance quite a bit if done right. This article goes over the main aspects of decantation process so that you could decant your own wine at home.

Why Decant Wine

Wine decantation is the process of pouring the wine from the bottle into a special vessel (decanter) for aeration (enriching with oxygen), removing the sediment layer, and creating a celebratory atmosphere of wine tasting. Mostly red wines get decanted, but some white wines reveal their aromatic and taste properties better after oxygen enrichment.

In terms of usefulness, champagne decantation is meaningless. It’s just a fancy ritual.

Classic Decanter

Classic wine decanter

People started decanting wine for a fancy table setting a few centuries ago. Back then glass bottles were a huge luxury, and wine was sold in barrels. In order to look presentable, joint owners started pouring wine into decanters. The ritual with a distinct sequence of actions was not a thing yet—it was invented later on. But even after wine bottles had gotten widespread use, the decantation tradition remained popular as it obtained new meaning.

First of all, decantation is used for young red wines which haven’t been filtered or drinks made with Malbec, Cabernet, Sauvignon, Sira, Grenache grape varieties and aged for 2-15 years. High-quality white Burgundy wines can be decanted as well.

Ordinary table wines that can be found in supermarkets don’t have sediment and unique taste, which can be revealed after aeration, and thus require no decantation.

Some sommeliers think that prior to decantation the wine bottle should be positioned horizontally for at least a few days to collect the whole sediment layer in one side of the bottle. Often times this rule is neglected, especially if the wine has little sediment.

How to Decant Wine

There are a few variations of proper decantation and one of them is described below. These methods of decanting wine differ only slightly and ultimately lead to the same result.

  1. Rinse a crystal decanter with hot water.
  2. Light a candle on a table; it will serve as additional source of light and will help you notice sediment near the bottle neck in time.
  3. Turn the label side of the wine bottle to your guests, and name it’s producer, appellation (wine-producing region) and harvest year.
  4. Remove the foil capsule at the top of the wine bottle and put the removed foil in your pocket. Wipe the bottleneck.
  5. Use a lever corkscrew to pull the cork by three quarters. Now take the corkscrew in hand and pull the cork out. Be sure to prevent it from popping not to perturb the solemnity of the decanting ritual.
  6. Inspect and smell the cork. You should sense no smell of mold or mustiness, which indicate that the wine is spoilt.
  7. Put the cork on a saucer and leave it near the guests.
  8. Wipe the bottleneck once again.
  9. The sommelier should taste the wine first by pouring some in a glass and turning to the guests’ right or left.Pouring Wine into a Decanter
  10. Slowly decant the wine from the bottle into the decanter without letting the sediment get into the decanter. Keep the bottleneck above the candle to see the sediment.
  11. To aerate the wine in the decanter, swirl it clockwise a few time. Before filling the glasses let the wine breath for 5-10 minutes.

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