What is decanting wine? When, how and why to decant your wine?

Decanting wine may seem like a mysterious art form, something you see at fancy dinner parties and undertaken in classy establishments. Decanting wine, however, is an accessible and easy way to elevate your wine drinking experience. Decanting wine means your guests will be drinking wine that has impeccable clarity of colour, as well as oxygenating and bringing your nice bold red up to the right temperature, releasing all those rich notes and delicious aromas.

 

What is decanting wine?

Decanting wine is the process of pouring the wine out of the bottle in which it has aged. You decant wine into a decanter, a specially shaped bottle that allows the wine to reach its full potential in terms of flavour and aromas. Wine decanters can come in a range of shapes and sizes, and add a touch of precision and beauty to dinner parties. Wine is decanted primarily to separate the wine from the sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Still, the exposure of the wine to oxygen also opens it up, releasing its aromas.
 

What are the benefits of decanting wine?

Decanting your wine serves a myriad of purposes. Firstly, it separates the wine from the sediment at the bottom of the bottle, which can diminish the flavours and make drinking your wine a less enjoyable experience. Secondly, removing the sediment from the wine makes it more aesthetically pleasing, so you are looking into a glass of ruby red or garnet liquid, unblemished by cloudiness. Decanting wine also serves a secondary purpose of exposing your wine to the air, releasing carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide from the bottle, which are undesirable components of the wine and hinder its flavour.

How to decant wine

Before you begin decanting red wine, you need to carefully remove it from the wine cellar, or wine rack. This involves rotating it from its side to an upright position without disturbing the sediment. If you have the time, ideally you will allow the wine to sit and settle for a day or so. If you don’t have the time to spare, an hour is better than nothing. Once the sediment has settled, if the wine is corked, ensure you remove the cork in one piece using a quality bottle opener. If the wine has a screw cap, ensure you gently unscrew it without jolting the bottle. When this is done it is time to start pouring the wine. Very gently decant the wine into the decanter, using a funnel if that makes it easier. While decanting wine, ensure that you are as steady as possible, so no sediment moves down the neck and into the decanting vessel. Once all the sediment-free fluid has been decanted, stop pouring the wine to ensure the clearest possible end product.


When should you decant wine?

It is important to consider the age and the style of the wine when decanting wine, it is these considerations which will inform you as to what wine will benefit from the process. Decanting red wine is recommended every time you are enjoying a high-quality drop, giving the wine an opportunity to breathe and elevating the experience of drinking it to the highest possible level. When having a dinner party or meal with friends, decanting wine can add some extra class to your event, as wine decanters are elegant and beautiful table pieces. However, wines of all quality can benefit from decanting.


What is the difference between a decanter and aerating?

Wine aerators are devices which either affix to the top of the bottle or are hand-held, and force the wine through a funnel of pressurised air. Wine aerators instantly oxygenate the wine and accelerate evaporation of volatiles, opening up the flavour and aroma. Because this is quite a vigorous process it is not ideal for aged red wines and delicate wines. Wine aerators do not remove sediment when pouring the wine and do not increase the wine’s temperature in the way a decanter does. Wine aerators almost instantly oxygenate the wine, while decanting wine can take a little longer.

How long should you decant wine?

The lighter the wine is, the less time it needs to decant. Decanting wine which is aged and fuller bodied, such as a Shiraz, may take in excess of an hour. Decanting wine which is lighter, such as Barossa Wine Company’s medium-bodied Gravel Track Tempranillo, will only need 30 minutes or so. A wine like Barossa Wine Company’s Farms Shiraz which has matured for twenty months in oak, requires a longer decanting in order to allow its intense nose of blackberry, black olive, liquorice and cigar box characters to develop.


Which wines do you need to decant?

All wines can be decanted, however, it is ideal for heavier reds and aged wines that are of a high quality. This allows the wine to reach its full potential bringing it up to its optimal temperature, boosting the flavour and releasing the aromas as the volatiles evaporate. Removing sediment and decanting your wine into an aesthetically pleasing vessel is also a nice way to display any wine.


Which wines do you not need to decant?

Generally, white wines do not need to be decanted. Lighter red wines too, and younger wines, may not benefit as much from decanting. The ultimate purpose of decanting wine is to separate it from its sediment. As red wines, older and vintage wines contain the most sediment, these are the wines which will benefit the most from decanting.