So, let's try to answer one of the most asked questions. When, why, and how should we decant a wine?
Decanting is when you pour the wine from the bottle into a different container. This is done to separate the liquid from the solids or sediments formed at the bottom during aging. But the main reason we decant is to allow the wine to breathe - aerate/open up.
When we expose the wine to oxygen, the tannins will soften, and the flavors and aromas will resurface, letting the wine express itself and show all its potential.
Unfortunately, there is no clear answer when it comes to decanting a bottle of wine, as many factors come into play.
We can give you a long list of tips, theories, and scientific explanations. But the best advice we can provide you from personal experience is to use your senses and follow your gut feeling.
As soon as you open the bottle, start by pouring a small serving into a wine glass, swirl it several times, then smell (aka nosing) and taste it. How does it feel?
Is the initial perfume and taste promising, does it lack aromas, or is it unexpressive?
The more wines you try, the better answers you'll have to these questions.
Wines evolve with time. There is a start, a middle, and an end. To understand a wine, you need to taste its evolution. Don't discard or judge a bottle or glass too early. It most probably could benefit from some air.
Let it sit, swirl it a bit, then smell and taste again. Now ask yourself, how has it changed? Is there something else to be gained by the process? There is no exact science to decanting; it is more like an art or an experiment.
Tips for decanting wine
Even though decanting is still a mystery, as the reality is you will always have a different result for each wine you open, most industry professionals agree on the following:
- Decanting can affect your perception of a wine. Usually, wine can get better, especially the complex and younger ones less than ten years old.
- Almost all wines benefit from aeration, but the reds tend to need decanting as they are the most with sediments and higher tannin levels.
- If the initial taste of a wine is promising, decanting may not be necessary. Exposure to oxygen might be enough in the glass.
- A reductive aroma does not mean the wine is faulty. Let the wine air for at least thirty minutes, then reevaluate. The air will help the wine react, releasing the compounds causing this aroma.
- Agitating and swirling the wine in a decanter or glass can help rush the aeration process.
- Suppose you're planning to open a bottle that has been in a horizontal position for a while. In this case, let the bottle sit vertically for a few days so the sediments can travel to the bottom of the bottle.
- When you start decanting, pour the wine gently into the decanter, especially if it has a considerable amount of age. Pouring this way will help you easily identify any sediment before it goes into the decanter. Stop as soon as you see sediments. A strainer can be used while decanting to filter out any solids or bits of cork. Note that nowadays, many wines are unfiltered.
- An older bottle usually needs less air than a younger wine. This is because older wines are more fragile, refined, and have softer tannins.
- Some delicate and elegant wines, such as Pinot Noirs, could be decanted just a few minutes before serving. On the other hand, Nebbiolo-based wines, for example, and full-bodied wines that are high-tannic may need more prolonged exposure to air to reveal their flavors and soften the tannins.
- Get a decanter that it's easy to clean and will expose the wine to air. There are many cool-looking decanters, but these don't necessarily let the wine breathe and aren't practical. We recommend the Glas-Vin decanter, which can hold a 750ml bottle or a full magnum as well. Click here to check it out.
- If you don't have a decanter, you can use any container, such as a glass pitcher, and you will be able to achieve the same results. Ensure the container is clean and free of any smell that could affect the wine. Remember that you need to have a good surface area to expose the most amount of wine to the air. The bigger the surface, the faster you will see results.