To Decant, or Not Decant

Posted by on Jan 28, 2012 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

To Decant, or Not Decant

To decant, or not to decant: that is the question.

Like Hamlet, some wine enthusiasts consider decanting wine to be a tragedy of the Shakespearean order; however, others say it’s great, as it helps to bring out the flavors of the wine. In this blog post will go over the benefits and drawbacks of decanting.

What is Decanting?

Let’s start with the basics. Decanting is simply the process of transferring the wine from the bottle to another bottle, craft, or jug.

“OK, but why?”

There are two main functions for decanting. It is sometime used to remove sediment from old aged wines, but primarily it is to allow the wine to breathe.

Decanting was originally discovered in Ancient Roman times when the Romans used decanters to serve their wine from barrels. The preference was glass, but after the fall of the Roman Empire, when glass was no longer available, they switched to alternatives materials like bronze, silver, and gold.

Removing Sediment

Wines that are older than 5 years might form some sediment; in other words, the remains after the wine have fermented. In most occasions wineries will filter this out before bottling; however, some makers believe that filtering takes away from the flavors of the wine as it ages. So in that sense, decanting helps to separate the developed tastes from the unneeded physical catalyst, so that when it’s served it is smoother, and less bitter.


The primary purpose here is to allow and help the flavors to open up. So it’s fairly common to decant younger wines that are also full-bodied. You can decant older wines, and it does help them to open up, but be careful not to leave the wines too long as the structure might collapse. Most experts will tell you not to decant an aged wine for longer than 2 hours.

How Do You Decant Wine?

It’s really pretty straightforward: you open the wine up, and pour it into the decanter. Use your judgment and the preferences of your guests as a guide, but simply allow it to sit until it has reachedthe desired state. Older wines require much less time before their flavor profile begins to break down completely. For any wine with sediment, you will need to ensure that you remove the sediment at some point in this process. There are multiple ways to achieve that, including allowing the sediment to simply gather at the bottom or neck of the wine bottle, but the easiest way is to just use a filter. If you choose to do a free-pour be sure to be in a well-lit area such that you can see the sediment, and when to stop pouring.

Can You Decant White Wines?

I get this question a lot—the answer is yes. Really, you can decant anything that you want.

My advice for pursuing this avenue for whites, however, is to be somewhat careful with how long you leave it exposed to air. White wines will lose their structure quite quickly, so while it’s fine to decant a rich Chardonnay to soften some of the bold flavors, one should be somewhat careful about light whites like Sauvignon Blanc.

What is the Best Wine Decanter?

Choosing a good decanter is much like choosing glassware. There are many options for shape, sizes, finish, etc. Crystal is arguably the best option out there, as it is more breathable than most materials. That said, you do not need to spend a lot on a decanter, as almost every type will serve its purpose.

When it comes to cleaning, if you find that you cannot get the red stains out, try some ice and salt, and this should remove them quickly.

That’s about it for decanters. Hopefully this knowledge will help your enjoy your next wine experience a little more. Perhaps you have one already, and this will be the reason you break it out from its hibernation. Or maybe you’ll pick one up, allowing you to open up a flavor profile in one of your favorite reds you never knew it had the potential for!

About Dave Keighron

Dave Keighron has written 63 posts in this blog.

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