What does it mean to decant wine and how do you do it?
Pouring wine from its bottle into some other container: a carafe, a decanter, even a water jug.
Why decant wine?
Wines are decanted to get rid of sediment, the organic matter that naturally precipitates from the wine as it matures. The wines that throw the most sediment are mature, full-bodied red wines and vintage port. The second reason to decant is to let the wine breathe so that it helps to warm up a wine that’s too cold, soften any harsh tannins and open up its aromatics. This is especially true of rough-and-not-ready reds, particularly young, full-bodied ones: cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, brunello, barolo, bordeaux, rioja, shiraz, syrah and Northern Rhone wines.
Should some wines not be decanted?
Even decanting hardliners admit that some wines just aren’t made for airing out. Delicate red wines, such as pinot noir, aren’t usually decanted because their subtle aromas can quickly dissipate. The same goes for zesty whites, such as rieslings and sauvignon blanc: they can lose their crisp, refreshing edge. Others are borderline: full-bodied whites, such as oaky chardonnays and some sweet wines, may benefit from decanting, depending on the style you like.
Which types of decanters are best?
You need a decanter large enough to hold the contents of a standard bottle, with some room at the top to allow the wine to breathe. Decanters that maximize the wine-to-air surface ratio are best for young wines, while those with narrow necks that reduce air exposure are better for older wines that just need their sediment removed. For a comprehensive list of retailers that sell decanters, glassware and other wine accessories, please click here.